Thursday, May 28, 2009
An Arsenal Fan Salutes Barcelona...
As an Arsenal fan, it's been an exhausting season that felt like a drunk behind the wheel of a Ferrari–accelerate! Slam on the brakes! Accelerate! Run over something and lose a tire! Accelerate! Hit the brakes! Run over something sharp that punctures another tire! Accelerate...Crash! Accelerate! Crash again!
Of course our European dream ended with a Manchester United bodyslam.
And that was immediately followed by a Chelski piledriver in the league to put the razor sharp exclamation point on the end of our season.
So forgive me if I wasn't exactly fired up for the Champion's League Final.
In fact, I almost forgot to set the DVR to record the match as I was leaving for work yesterday morning.
Still, the choice of who to root for was a no brainer.
I got behind Barca without hesitation.
It comes down to three reasons:
First, I've spent time in Barcelona and it's a great city loaded with personality.
I went on a whirlwind tour of Amsterdam, Spain and Portugal with my wife in 1997, before we were married and it was a fantastic adventure.
Somewhere along the way, I remember waking up in a Sevilla hotel to the sound of car horns blaring and general excitement on the streets below.
My wife asked around and found out it was a celebration–a Spanish side, probably Real Madrid, had won some important soccer match.
That's all I knew.
Mind you, this is just before I took my leap back into the world of football as a full-fledged Arsenal fan.
The idea that anyone would celebrate soccer with such gusto was so completely foreign to me.
And I loved it.
Second, as an Arsenal fan, you have to admire Barca's commitment to attacking football and that's exactly what tempted Arsenal's all time greatest weapon, Thierry Henry, to join the Spanish side two years ago.
Henry realized his playing days were winding down and he wanted one last grab at glory.
Unfortunately, he found himself surrounded by a gang of kids at Arsenal, who despite their talent, were clearly not quite ready for prime time.
The fact that Henry had come within touching distance of the CL trophy with Arsenal in 2006, only to lose it cruelly to Barcelona, made for a juicy backstory.
So, I thought, let's win one for Henry.
My third reason for choosing Barcelona over United should be obvious–for Barca to win, Manchester United would have to lose.
Still, like most, I thought United would simply overpower the smaller Barcelona and exploit their patchwork defense the same way they so easily discarded Arsenal.
I saw the result while at work but I didn't get to watch the match until I got home last night.
United started in the same formation they did against Arsenal and again dominated the first nine minutes of play.
It was all going according to plan until BANG! Barcelona punched United right in the mouth. To be exact, Samuel Eto'o punched United in the mouth after undressing Vidic.
And just like that, Barcelona was in control.
Ten minutes later, the mighty United already looked panicked and out of sorts.
And they would never recover.
Barcelona attacked and attacked and attacked.
In the second half, Henry turned Rio Ferdinand inside out on a move that nearly made the score 2-0.
The kill shot would come at seventy minutes from Barca's creative wizard, Lionel Messi, who launched his tiny five feet seven inch body into the air, twisting to direct a perfect header over the United goalie, Van Der Sar, and into history.
This Barcelona team, with their first year coach, Pep Guardiola, has achieved what no other Spanish side has done before–they've won the trifecta of the Spanish League, the Spanish Cup and the European Champion's League.
And in the process, they made United look positively ordinary.
Congratulations to Barcelona.
Now keep your hands off our Fabregas.