Thursday, May 26, 2011

The undeserved revisionism of Barcelona FC

It's popular assumed knowledge that this current incarnation of Barcelona are one of best teams in football history. In this case, popular assumed knowledge is correct: Barcelona are one of the all-time greats.

What they aren't though, is deserving of the revisionism that circulates in some - minority and usually Real-supporting - areas which suggests they are unworthy of such a place in the pantheon because they occasionally play up contact. Apparently, the greatness of their football is somehow lessened by acts of dubious exaggeration exacted by players such as Sergio Busquets and Pedro. While it's true that some facets of the Barca playing group are prone to simulation, the occasional cynical challenge and even the odd "holier-than-thou" attitude, this shouldn't overshadow the beauty of their passing game.

Let's not forget about it, either. Busquets, Dani Alves and Pedro all earned such reputations after their Oscar-winning performances against arch-enemies Los Merengues. Plus, we're not talking the Bad Boys either (this shows off too much of their basketball for my liking, but it was the best example I could find of their numerous tactical cheap shots) where they actually tried to physically intimidate their opposition. What Barcelona do, they do well - pass the ball and then move. When they don't have the ball, they harry their opponents until it's turned over. It's a high-energy style which produces fouls. They is, like Popeye, what they is.

From a personal standpoint, revisionism has taken on a whole new life over the last fifteen years. With the rapid inflation in visibility that the internet and digital media has provided, we have easy access to more accumulated (human, of course) knowledge than the Matrix and as such, we second guess ourselves - and popular opinion. Some cases involve two-dimensional objects/characters receiving a gratuitous third dimension. The worst cases of this occur when pop-culture villains are given a back-story - Exhibit A: The Star Wars Prequels and Exhibit B: the entire premise of the musical/book "Wicked". The prosecution rests.

Once and for all: I don't care where Darth Vader came from. Or the bloody Wicked LinkWitch of the West. Making established villains into heroes just doesn't fly - they're better left two-dimensional.
By living in an age where we have so much information and ways to express it, we often look for subtext where there is none. Some characters are better left in two dimensions, because in three dimensions they just look silly. The reverse it true with the current irritating tendency to draw Barcelona FC two-dimensionally.

Apparently, some quarters their legacy should be changed to a team of whiners who happened to play good football. This, plainly and simply, is not true. They are a brilliant team which employs some players who are prepared to feign injury to gain a tactical advantage.

There's no doubt in my mind that Barcelona are the best I've seen. They have three of the best four and maybe five of the ten most influential players in the world. But they want to win and do so by making the most of opportunities - in front of goal, or in front of the ref. This doesn't mean they don't deserve their place in the all-time greats - find me a "pantheon" team who wouldn't do the same.

In any "football almanac" written fifty years from now they'll be remembered rightly for their offensive skill, not for diving. Those occasional "simulation" incidents definitely deserve mention, but let's not have a (relatively) small issue change our wholesale perception of such a great team. That some elements acted (badly) in such a high profile match as the Champions' League Semi-Finals doesn't make them The Beast. It does provide more well-rounded analysis, however.

This Barcelona team are brilliant. Flawed slightly, perhaps, in some players' willingness to exaggerate injuries. Let's remember their greatness, not change them into a "dirty" team just for the sake of a story, or to be different.

Image of Darth Vader courtesy:
Image of Sergio Busquets courtesy:

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