Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The promise of a beautiful game

I try to ration my watching of 'billionaire football', but the Arsenal and Barcelona Champions League encounter this evening is simply unmissable. Da Vinci versus Rembrandt, Saussure versus Chomsky, or Bach versus Boulez comes to mind... different backgrounds, technically superb, and capable of extraordinary flights of imagination. Already (15 minutes in) it's thoroughly absorbing. Even when not much is happening, everything is happening - or could do, in a few explosive minutes. As I write, Lionel Messi very nearly breaks through to put the Catalans ahead. Not quite, thankfully. But they are claiming the majority of the possession.

As for Arsene Wenger's men: well, they may be English Premier League 'big four', and therefore antithetical to my moral and sporting interests in the larger realm of football, but they do play a beautiful game. The passionate and articulate Frenchman has also refused pressure to splash ridiculous cash, has defied calls to temper flair with deadening efficiency, and has nurtured some extraordinary young players. I'd love to see an upset tonight. But Barca are, without doubt, the finest club side on the planet, with Messi and Andrés Iniesta Luján their magicians-in-chief. Glorious to watch, even if they're not Dumbarton.

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