A Tale of Two Cities

Apologies for the lateness once again, but here I am.

This post is going to be about a new favourite book of mine  – (Yes! A book review! Finally! said Aldrin) but alas my dear friend, I fear it is not the type of book you care for, but I will still try to entertain.

Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona vs Real Madrid by Sid Lowe is one of the best books I’ve ever read that’s not fiction. I rarely read books that are non-fiction, and most of those are about football. Sports/football writing can be a drab and a tab annoying, and will always usually come out with a bias because that’s just how things go in the world of footy. Sid Lowe, however, is in a different class. I know it’s very hard to put into words just how amazing the most beautiful sport in the world is, but Sid does it time and time again. Even when it’s not about a match (about managerial issues, example) he still sets up the perfect scenario for the fans. Here’s two of my favourite articles of his: one about Messi and this one about Mourinho leaving Real Madrid.

Here is me with book. I recommend it so much that I put my face next to it - the ultimate seal of approval!

Here is me with the book. I recommend it so much that I put my face next to it – the ultimate seal of approval!

Fans of Barcelona would look at the cover and already scoff – why so white? Why do the Los Blancos (Real Madrid) get more than half of the cover? (I am one of said fans). I don’t think it’s a secret to a lot of people that I am a Cule, a Barcelona fan. I have been for many years now, was ridiculed for it because I became one right about the time the Galacticos of Real Madrid were ruling world football. But, here’s the thing: you really don’t choose your club. It chooses you, just like the wands you buy at Ollivander’s. You can watch every match of every football club that you can, and there’s this one club that makes you want to puke and punch yourself in the face – and that’s your club. Talking about choosing a football club is exactly like talking about Wandlore. It’s a complex branch of magic.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid is something I will not admit to ever understanding, and I never will. It is not just a football rivalry. It is a tale of two cities – a tale of two nations, even. Going to Barcelona after being in Madrid is like going to another country. Nothing is the same. Culturally, politically, linguistically- they have distanced themselves from each other, and will continue to do so until the state of Catalonia gets its “independencia”. But I think that’s highly impossible, at least in my lifetime.

This is me trying to scratch the surface of this rivalry. Sid Lowe, however, did it perfectly and without bias (yes you heard that right). The amount of research that went into this book is outstanding. The level of the people he got to interview can’t be beat- Di Stefano, Cruyff, Stoichkov, Van Gaal, Figo, Butragueno – the list goes on. The book is more than enlightening, it’s what everyone needed to know without sugarcoating anything. Lowe kept it objective but raised some great points when needed. This is a tale told time and time again, and will be told centuries on. It’s not going to stop. It’s a symbiotic relationship, as many of the sports journalists have cried from years ago up to now. Lowe summed it up perfectly in his book – no matter what is happening in their club, fans of both Madrid and Barca have an eye on each other. “We are losing, but they are as well.” “We are winning but they are still above us in the standings, oh no.”  these can be heard inside my room every match day.

I am not Catalan, so I can’t even begin to describe what Barcelona means. I am not Castilian so I also cannot describe what Madrid really is. I am on the outside looking in, and although I am a die-hard Barcelona fan, my anguish cannot come close to the Catalans when we lose a “*Clasico”

*Clasico or El Clasico is what they call it every time Barca and Real Madrid face each other.

I recommend this book highly because after reading it, I got to see why Catalans feels the way they do towards Real Madrid – and vice versa. Also, I felt like I fell in love with Barca all over again. I have asked a couple of friends abroad who support Madrid and have said the same thing – the book made them proud to be Madridistas. I guess with the truth out there, seeing it with no hint of bias, just great storytelling, it was easier to stomach. The book held nothing back – be it Barca’s hardships right after Figo left for Madrid, or the curse that was the Galactico era in Real Madrid.

I didn’t mention Messi or Ronaldo that much because in the book, they weren’t talked about so much as well. They are poster boys, being put up against each other simply because they play for these two teams. Ten years from now, even 5 years from now, there will be new poster boys and the rest of us will just be talking about the Ronaldo-Messi rivalry in passing, just another chapter in the Barcelona-Real Madrid struggle for dominance.

Again, to my friends who are Barca fans/football fans, I urge you to read it. I got this on Amazon UK. Well worth the price and the wait for its arrival.

———————

Since I’m already talking about football, I’m just going to go ahead and voice out my frustrations regarding the Ballon D’Or drama. For those not familiar, the Ballon is the highest individual award that can be given in the footballing world. It is voted by the coaches and captains of the national teams, along with some members of the media.

I know a lot of you are asking why I don’t tweet about football that much anymore. Some already know why, but there are some that still ask me, since they’re very surprised by my lack of interest in football matters when I was such a noisy fan last year. I still am, but I don’t want to use my personal twitter anymore. I feel bad for those who don’t care for football, having to be flooded with my thoughts about everything, and I have a lot of them. I created another twitter, @ZforZola, so I can tweet whenever I want without bothering anyone. Okay? Okay.

So, in my other twitter, I’ve been very vocal about my views regarding who should win it this year. Before the season ended this May with Bayern winning the Champions League, I already said I wanted one of them, preferably Franck Ribery, to win the award. No one else came close. Neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo deserve the award – yes, even after Ronaldo’s stellar performance against Sweden in the world cup qualifiers.

The controversy came when right after that match of Ronaldo’s, it was circulated in the news that the Ballon D’Or voting would be opened again and the deadline pushed back to November 29, instead of the original November 15 date. So many questions to ask, to be honest. Was it because FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who ridiculed Cristiano recently when asked who he prefers between Cron and Messi, wants to get back in his good graces? Was it really because there was a low turnout of votes?

Everyone knows I love Lionel Messi – but I’m not stupid. I’m also a fan of football, the game itself. I know when someone deserves the award above the rest. And Messi does not deserve it this year, not at all, even if he won the league with Barcelona. Cristiano didn’t even win anything with Real Madrid. Spanish football got its ass handed back to it by the Germans this year and everyone knows that. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund made a mockery of the two footballing giants from Spain by beating them in the Champions League semifinal, on the way to face each other in the final. In the end, it was Germany vs Germany – which German was better this year? In the end Bayern triumphed. Winning the treble in the most spectacular fashion, stats that have never been seen before in the game and yet, here they are, unnoticed because of course only either Messi or Ronaldo get to win right? Bayern showed Barca that you need defence to win matches, by winning 7-0 on aggregate. Messi couldn’t even do anything. Dortmund beat Real Madrid 4-1 in Germany, with the 4 goals scored by one man, Robert Lewandowski. Cristiano scored the one goal because Dortmund made a mistake. The two superstars were humbled, brought to their feet by the Germans.

I’m just going to say this: I’ve always been baffled by the Ballon D’Or or individual awards that are not specific in football. Most goals scored, most this, most that, I understand. But to decide who the best is in the world? every year? It’s a subjective thing. That’s just how I’m going to treat this award from now on – a subjective opinion of whoever voted. For me, if you can divide the Ballon d’Or to 17 or so pieces, to give to every player in Bayern Munich who was involved in their stellar 2012-2013 campaign, that’s the only way this award can hold the truth this year. Football is a team sport, and even if a star shines brighter than the rest, he wouldn’t be that great if the people around him don’t work as hard as he does. Bayern showed everyone this year what teamwork can do – no one stood out immensely. Franck Ribery is the closest thing that shone brighter than the rest of his team, but only because he was the maestro, the conductor of the well-oiled machine.

I’m not a Bayern fan, alright. I’m a Barca and Chelsea fan, but as I said, I am a fan of the game itself and I try to watch as many matches as I can, even when it doesn’t involve my teams. I’m just stating what I saw, and what I saw was the power of world football shifting to the Germans.

And that’s it for my football rant! I’ll be back to regular programming soon because finally, I found my Disneyland pictures!

Adios por ahora!

 

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