Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Spanish or Catalan eyes smiling?

Pep and Jose shake 'n' wrestle
No, I'm not just referring to the football in tonight's Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but to the complex politics, as well. 'El Classico' as it has been dubbed (or hyped) is also a clash of regions, cultures, histories and sensibilities. But this being football, the emotions are even more confused than that.

On paper it has to be Barcelona for me: not just because they are the finest team on the planet right now, but because they are a fan-owned club (of a kind), were player-formed (Spanish, Swiss and English), have deep regional roots, resisted fascism in the '20s and '30s, and sponsor UNICEF. That said, there was a decidedly messy episode with skinhead groups a few years back, the UNICEF link is about to go, and as of late 2010 club membership is no longer open to the public. Only close relatives of current and former Barcelona members can join, as well as previous members with at least a two-year history of membership.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, the most successful football club of the twentieth century, have been the team of many a school kid's dream for nigh on fifty years. Including mine at certain weak moments - even if my favourites European moment of all time was (and will probably remain) Aberdeen's extraordinary victory over then in the European Cup Winners' Cup Final of 1982-3. It is also difficult not to feel some affection for the current ludicrously successful, quixotic and entertaining managerial figure of Jose Mourinho, currently up against former colleague Pep Guardiola. Unfortunately, Real have also been a club of the super-rich (not that FCB are poor!), of dictator Franco, and of the repellingly egotistical Cristiano Ronaldo.  Even so, a bit of me would like to see a Madrid versus Manchester United final. An obituary to the past half century? Go figure.

Meanwhile, the football in the goalless first half of the first leg of this semi has been underwhelming. The occasion, tactics and desire not to lose has overcome the sense of adventure, of which we have seen but hints so far. There has also been plenty of 'handbags' (including a spat at the break as the teams came off). The recent Copa del Rey final, won against the overall odds by Real Madrid, was both electric and incendiary. The football sparks have yet to fly in this one.


Juan said...

Sorry but after reading your entry, I have to say that you do not have any idea of Spanish politics, Spanish football and Real Madrid History. I am not insulting you but suggesting you should read a little bit more about some of the subjects.
All the best,

Simon Barrow said...

It would be more helpful if you could state a different view or offer a perspective on some particular points you disagreed with, Juan - rather than simply being dismissive and making assumptions about what someone you don't know has or hasn't read. Best, S.