Yrsa Roca Fannberg



The Return of a Smile

Ronaldinho has been struggling for most of the season. His smile has slowly been disappearing; the first signs of it came during the World Cup. A World Cup that was truly awful for him. He returned to his club, Barcelona and the press were trying to help him feeling loved again. It was not an ideal start for a player that relies on his freshness in order to beat opposite defenses. A player that often has two or three markers on him at all times. Due to contractual obligations Barcelona were forced to play him in every game on their American pre season tour for at least 45 minutes. Upon return to Europe important games awaited, such as the Spanish super cup and the European super cup, straight after that the league started. This all meant that he had no pre season, no time to prepare for what is going to be a long and a tough season. After a couple of games, signs of his fatigue did start to show and he could not show what he was worth. Traditionally Ronaldinho is a player that takes time to gain his fitness and in most seasons he does not really come to his true self, until October. The difference this season is that Eto'o got injured early on, a player that had carried Barcelona through the first matches of the season. With his injury the burden laid on Ronaldinho, thankfully Messi seemed wonderful and his form as well as Iniesta's carried the team through matches. However this season the team has not been that lucky, in the Champions League they were drawn in the so called group of death with Chelsea and Werder Bremen, and in the league they have had to meet most top teams in the first months of the competition. Even if the team has not been playing well, they are top of the table, having more points than at this point last season. Something has not really been clicking, neither for Ronaldinho nor for many of his teammates. Some have simply not gained their fitness, but it also might be that they are not as hungry as last year, or that they are sparing their efforts until it truly matters. That might be a risk to take, as they might be out of the races for the most important titles in February, March or even as early as December, in case they do not beat Levski Sofia and Werder Bremen. It is not only Ronaldinho who has been struggling, but also Deco, M√°rquez, Puyol or Zambrotta have not been themselves either. Gudjohnsen has not really adapted, which makes combinations towards goal harder. It is not really news that Ronaldinho does not track back and this year the fullback marking him has taken advantage of the motorway in front of him. However as Ronaldinho as never really taken his defensive duties seriously I don't believe the blame only lies with him, but previously Deco would sweep it all up, like a hoover, but now he is not really in form either, which makes that side of the pitch so much more vulnerable. It has not helped that the press is slowly turning against him and some are suggesting that perhaps it is times to cash in and sell him to Milan, like Berlusconi is wishing. There have been rumours of his marathon disco sessions in night clubs, that he is more concerned with publicity than really playing, that he is more Beckham than Kak√°, that he is believing all the hype and not willing to turn the hours in, that he misses more training sessions than not. When the noise of criticism was at its loudest, Ronaldinho came out and said he would be there when the team really needed him, which was thought to be against Chelsea and against Madrid, this did not really happen, only one moment of glory can be remembered in all those games, the slalom that led to Eidur Gudjohnsen's goal. However it is now more than ever the teams needs him, with three of Barcelona's seven strikers out (if Ezquerro is counted in), he will need to lead the team like he did in his first season and proof that he is still the best player in the world. If that does not happen, the noise will become unbearable and people will want to get rid of him sooner than he probably had accounted for.
In the last couple of weeks, he has been rested in some games and the club has tried to set up some sort of pre season programme for him and other players (Deco, M√°rquez, Puyol, Deco and Zambrotta). The first one was just before the second game against Chelsea and at least he had some improvement even if just slightly. The second programme came just before the Zaragoza game and at least seems to be not hiding anymore, some of his tricks are pulling off and he is not totally exhausted at the end of the games. His concentration is better, as he scored that marvelous ob√∫s and almost repeated the act in the dying minutes of the game. In the game against Real Zaragoza he received a yellow card, which means he won't play in the next game, perhaps that will lead to the third programme, just in time for the real decisive games of the season. The smile seems to be back, which is a good sign. A sign that he is happy, which is all we want, as when he is happy he performs.

During the cold winter months, I would distract myself by watching football, rather said, I would watch F.C. Barcelona's games. No other teams.
It is a mixture of two things.
• I find it sane to have a passion for something you can't control, that you canal your emotions through something that is distant from yourself, but you feel part of it, you feel it.
• As a child I would travel to Catalunya to visit my father. I started travelling on my own as a five year old, only speaking Icelandic and after about two weeks I would speak some Catalan as well. I learnt very quickly that if I support Barça it would bring me a sense of belonging. It quickly became my connection with the country my father is from.
These writings are an extension of these two factors.