Thursday, August 30, 2007

A rant about certain sections of the Catalan sports press

When I revamped the blog (what do you think, tidier to look at now?), I decided to link to Spanish sports dailies Marca and (Barcelona-based/biased) El Mundo Deportivo, along with the football section of El Pais, the big general daily, but not AS or Sport. A blind monkey can see that AS are in the Barca-baiting business, so there's no sense in a Barcelona-focused blog linking to that, ah, fine publication (I once saw it referred to as 'reputable Spanish daily AS' and nearly died laughing) which doesn't at all make up crazy rumours. But the case of Sport needs explaining. After all, they are fanatical in their support for Barca, and I should be fine with that, right?

Not if they're the kind of fanatical that makes me cringe in embarrassment. Additionally, they print rubbish about Barcelona itself on a daily basis.

Exhibition 1: thinking that they know better than the coaching staff how to bed in a young player. Because they were the ones who did so well bringing Messi into the first team, were they? Attacking the man who did, Frank Rijkaard for supposedly not being brave enough to give a 17 year old significant first team minutes (also known as rushing a player's development by putting undue pressure on them) makes them look really smart in comparison. Not.

Yes, Bojan is wonderful, but how long before the press start to measure him by the same strict standards they use for the big stars and slamming him for every misstep? Having seen how things went with Messi, I give it a month.

To the great football minds at Sport:

There are these other blokes who are already fighting for a starting spot up front. You might have heard of them. In fact, you were inventing that insanely idiotic 'fantastic four' nickname for them just a little while ago, and then whinging about everybody associated with the club advising the press not to use it.

You know, those rubbish unknowns Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o and Leo Messi, who have never done anything special for the club ever.

Oh yeah, there's also that guy we've just bought from Arsenal. I hear he's decent.

Exhibition 2: in a related vein, their coverage of Eto'o. Oh yeah, he's the hardest working of all the forwards, but that doesn't matter, he looks so grumpy all the time and we want to see the new guys instead. They've apparently never heard of someone having to play their way back into form after a major injury, and are instead content to behave like a kid in a candy shop, always looking for the shiniest novelty.

Exhibition 3: (which El Mundo Deportivo is also guilty of) upbraiding Rijkaard and putting pressure on him for not playing Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Henry and Messi together, because according to them that's what the fans want. I completely understand that attacking football is part of the club's DNA, and I wouldn't have it any other way, but I also know that in modern football, a team has to be balanced. Out of those four, only two of them defend, and only one (Eto'o) is the kind of guy who's willing to chase an opposition winger all the way to their touchline after losing the ball. (Messi would give chase until just before the penalty area and then stop, assuming that the defenders would take care of it.)

It's simply unrealistic in a competitive game to play all four, especially since two of them would be getting in each other's way all the time. Perhaps it's an option if we're behind in a game and need to score above all else, and screw defending. Rijkaard has after all done it before with Larsson in place of Henry, the problem here being that Henry drifts in from the side and has to play in the center to be effective, while Larsson could handle all three positions on the forward line. In any case, it worked well in games against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal.

By the way, it's such a crime to waste Eto'o on the wing. I know he said he's okay with playing anywhere (witness his - quite reasonable - performance as essentially a wingback during the latter stages of the Champions League semi with Milan at the Camp Nou), and it's a good use of his work rate, but it's just painful to watch. Both him and Henry absolutely have to play center forward. We've got plenty of wing-forwards who are good at their own job.

Exhibiton 4: having been at least partially responsible for the ridiculous and unrealistic hype over the team themselves, they rush to declare themselves deeply disappointed and let down as soon as the first game is played, conveniently ignoring their own role in making this bunch of players who in truth have yet to gel sound like the second coming of Christ. Dropping 2 points on the first day of the season is a major disaster. It's so horrible that the last time we did so we -

Oh. We won the league and the Champions League, after taking at a month or two to play ourselves into form, during which the hysteria of the press over the points being dropped and the supposed falling out certain big stars had with Frank Rijkaard reached intolerable levels.

...and I haven't even touched on the disgraceful racist cartoon about the Asian tour and their approach to transfer rumours.

In the end, they can write what they want, of course, and they need to sell papers somehow. But that doesn't mean I can't rant about how wrong I think they are.


atleti said...

The blog looks good, very clean!

Agreed on all points; the dailies do publish plenty of rubbish-- it's appalling and hysterical! I find they're also hit-or-miss when it comes to breaking news: sometimes they're spot-on and report the latest headlines before everyone else, other time they write outrageous crap (for kicks, I imagine).

Also agreed on the bit about playing all four not working: not only that, but Titi's health, I don't think, permits him to play a full 90 anymore (sciatic nerve, I think)-- it benefits him and the club to come off the bench. Still very much a world class striker, of course.

Linda said...


This is hearsay only, but apparently someone who once worked for Marca said that they make up transfer rumours for fun all the time. I'd have no difficulty believing that, actually.

The problem now is that Eto'o is injured, so Barca have to hope that Henry will be able to play the full 90 in his place.

Isaiah said...

Unfortunately, the dailies seem to come up with enough stories that they're worth reading. Sport is crazy, but so is El Mundo Deportivo. I trust only El Pais (El Mundo is a forum I'm still exploring) as Marca is just as bad as Sport, only they're Madrid based so I hate them instead of being annoyed by them.

The note about the cartoon (thanks for the link, btw) is a pretty important one as it's suggestive a general carelessness throughout the entire newspaper. While I haven't seen as many Pelotazos (from El Mundo Deportivo) as I have Futbolitis (from Sport), I think they're generally the same. Though Futbolitis seems generally funnier, except for the massively racist parts, which are despicable and have caused me to stop reading it.

Anyway, I try to avoid Sport as much as Marca and AS in an effort to actually come up with real information about FCB, but the official site is so slow in publishing things that a desire for speedier info (a personal failing) drives me towards the tabloids. Sigh.

Linda said...

Isaiah: yeah, I'm a news junkie myself, so I do occasionally end up going to Sport for information. It would be nice if the offical site was faster.

El Mundo is alright, bit El Pais is the best. Marca is biased, but not as much as AS, and at least they try to sound less obsessed with Real Madrid because of their national coverage.

The El Mundo Deportivo cartoons can occasionally be quite astute, and in the case of the one about Antonio Puerta (RIP), touching.

Gonzalo said...

Hi Linda, just back from a week off, so apologies for the late comment: I agree with you that of the four main sports dailies, As and Sport are positively rabid, while Marca and El Mundo Deportivo only foam at the mouth from time to time.

I find that an "outsider's" view is sometimes the most enlightening, hence I usually like to look over what Phil Ball, Sid Lowe and Reuters blogs have to say. As far as blogs go, our own Tim Stannard at La Liga Loca is always worth reading.

The funniest thing about Sport (as a Real Madrid suporter, you have to take their rantings philosophically, rather than personally, hence why their near apoplexy at last season's league climax was so enjoyable from my perspective) is their firmas columns. Aside from Martí Perarnau, who prior to joining sport, maintained a very good blog, these are generally filled by the daily rantings of the ill-informed. What I want to know is, who actually pays good money for these papers?

Linda said...

Gonzalo: Welcome back!

I find that Phil Ball and Sid Lowe are in a minority amongst the English speaking football press since they know what they're on about. Some of the others attempting to discuss La Liga are just painful. Both write very well too, which is a bonus.

The funniest thing about Sport
I think that is the best attitude to take, and in fact I try have that attitude towards AS and Marca, but when it's a newspaper that supposedly supports Barca I can't help but get annoyed.

I'm guessing people pay for the news items? Well, I hope so anyway. Some of those columns could be written by a raving donkey.