Tag: Barcelona

A – Partial – Defence Of The Club World Cup

On Sunday morning – if you happen to be in Western Europe – the champions of world club football will be crowned, as the final of the 2011 Club World Cup is played at the International Stadium in Yokohama between Barcelona, the current champions of Europe, and Santos of Brazil, the current champions of South America. The Club World Cup has been running since 2004, but it has yet to engage a great deal of interest in Europe. This, however, has to be seen in considerable contrast with the credibility of the tournament in other parts of the world, and in Brazil Sunday’s match is already being talked about as being one of the most important in the history of Santos, which, considering that this is a club that was Pele’s club for eighteen years, has won the Campeonato Paulista on nineteen occasions, the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A on eight occasions and the Copa Libertadores three times, can only be regarded as quite something. European disdain for this particular tournament is not a particularly new phenomenon. We can only hint at the possible reasons for this, from the fact that it is hosted in the middle of the domestic season and on the other side of the world right through to its timing. It easy to complie a case for the current format of the tournament – which has...

Read More

The 2011 UEFA Champions League Final: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

Manchester United and Barcelona at Wembley, then. These are two clubs whose European histories have become interwoven with each other as well as this venue. When Manchester United became the first English club to win the European Cup, they did so at Wembley in 1968. Twenty-four years later, Barcelona won it for the first time at the same venue. A year earlier, they had played each other in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup final, in a match that Manchester United won – another step in the rehabilitation of the club that, at the time, had not won its domestic league in over twenty years. With their place at the head of the Premier League hegemony established, confirmation of their ascendency in European football came at Camp Nou, and two years ago Barcelona swatted them aside in the final of this very competition. The capital of England, then, is hosting the biggest club match of the season and no stone has been left unturned in the pursuit of a cliche to match the event. Guardsmen wearing busbys stomp from the pitch as the players come out, Barcelona in red and blue and Manchester United in that peculiar white and black change kit reminiscent of the sort of thing that a Sunday League team might have worn during the late 1990s. Appearances, however, can be deceptive, and Manchester...

Read More

Barcelona vs Manchester United: A Preview, Of Sorts

Tomorrow evening at Wembley, in front of what will probably be described as “a world-wide television audience of seventeen billion people”, Manchester United play Barcelona in the final of the 2011 UEFA Champions League at Wembley Stadium. It is, one could be forgiven for thinking, the final that would have topped the governing body’s wish list at the start of the season. It is, however, also something quite different to that. This match is a clash of cultures, a coming together of shared histories and, possibly most curiously of all, a juxtaposition of two perceptions of teams that couldn’t be much more different to what it is. A swift look at the top of the Spanish league tables confirms what was surely a certainty from the very start of the season. Barcelona ended the season as the champions of Spain, with thirty wins from thirty-eight matches and ninety-six points. Yet, although they won the league with a degree of comfort, the gap between themselves and second placed Real Madrid was just four points. Their style of play, their sense of élan and grace, has earned them almost unprecedented plaudits in the press. They are talked of in some quarters as being possibly the greatest team in the entire history of European club football. The league table, however, suggests that it might not necessarily be quite that clear cut. In...

Read More

Match Of The Midweek: Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal

Barcelona versus Arsenal, then. This tie might just turn out to have produced a higher acreage of newpaper stories than any other match this season, with comments thrown from one club to the other like hand grenades in the air over the last couple of weeks. The hype  has added to the feeling that this isn’t a mere football match being played out this evening. It’s mas que un football match, if you prefer. It’s a match upon which hopes are being rested that aren’t solely to do with the partisanship of club support. Aesthetes are hoping, possibly praying, for a match that will take association football to a new artistic plane. Some are wondering whether the hegemony built up in recent times by Barcelona, who seem to have become something of an embodiment of their club motto over the last five years, can be broken by Arsenal this evening. They didn’t win in last year, but that can be written off as a one-off. Two years in a row, however… Arsenal, meanwhile, have endured something approaching Champions League purgatory since their participation became seemingly perpetual a few years ago. They arguably had their big chance in the competition in 2006, when they finally, finally made the final in Paris. In that match, they grabbed the lead in Paris after having had their goalkeeper, Jens Lehmann, sent off. It...

Read More

Barcelona And The Sacrifice Of Principles

One of the more singular quirks of some football rivalries is an appropriation of the moral high ground by one club over another. It can be seen in some ways in the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, where the perception from the outside has long been of a near-bunker mentality at Ibrox. A similar situation exists in Spain, where Barcelona have, in recent years, become a symbol of something other than just football. FC Barcelona was in itself, long ago, a political statement. Camp Nou was, in Franco’s Spain, the only place where Catalan nationalist feeling could be openly expressed and, although it is now more than three decades since the general’s death, a sense remains that Barcelona stands for something “other”, while Real Madrid are the club of the establishment. This is something that has been, to a degree, exploited by the club itself, particularly in recent years. The slogan “mes que un club” can be viewed through many prisms – as a political statement, a rallying cry to supporters or as a marketing slogan – but if it is taken, as many supporters do (whether rightly or wrongly) take it, as a claim to something approaching moral high ground, the club’s management seems likely to find out over the next few weeks that such a position can be a precarious ledge upon which to stand. Barcelona stand...

Read More