Thursday, April 29, 2010

narrative, what narrative?

The trend is much-discussed in political coverage, but it's equally prevalent in football. I'm speaking of our need to make sense of the big stories of the day by playing them into some kind of morality play context, as if somehow the fine margins of an offside decisions or whether the ball hits the post or goes inside the net has to come together to mean something bigger.

Speaking as a Cule, I couldn't blame fans of teams who've played big games against Barca in the past, say, 5 years if they got frustrated with being painted as the antagonist in Football As Art: the Musical. It's nonsense. I find it infuriating when Brazil get treated that way in the press, and I find it just as difficult to swallow when it's a team I support being given the idealized treatment.

Did it really mean something deep and profound when Barca advanced over Chelsea in last season's Champions League semi-final when they did it via a last-ditch goal and amidst so many contentious refereeing decisions? It certainly advanced the smaller narrative of Barca and Chelsea's grievances against each other, piling up from each of their explosive meetings in Europe, but beyond that, you'd have to ignore a lot of key facts to paint it as some kind of moral victory. It was a victory, sure, and one that easily made my week (okay, month), but let's not give it a gloss it doesn't deserve.

I'll give you the final - the victory over Manchester United probably could be taken as a vindication of Barca's commitment to its style, especially given the absence of key players, and of course it capped off Barca's treble. If you want to derive some meaning from that, feel free. It makes sense.

Like Guardiola pointed out in his (scrupulously gracious, no matter what quotes you've seen taken out of context) pre-match press conference for Barca-Inter, no matter what happened in that game, the Barca of the Six Cups had written their name into the club's history already. One game couldn't change that, for better or for worse. If we're talking narratives, I'll commit to that one.

But please, Arsenal aren't just a collection of too-young ingénues (more on age in a later post). Inter are not the Devil. Nor were Chelsea last season. Real, on the other hand...

I'm just kidding. But we'll have to wait until the end of the season too see how that narrative of sustained development versus sudden lavish investment plays out.

ETA: Almost forgot. You can follow me on Twitter @blackwhitengrey if you're that way inclined. Be warned: I tweet a lot of amusing Guardiola quotes.


Martha said...

As an Inter supporters who's almost to the point of just being amused by the endless facile uses of the Good v Evil narrative, I really appreciate this post, thank you. And am on my way to follow you on Twitter, Pep or no Pep.

Linda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda said...


If I'm sick if it, I can't imagine how often you've snorted at your Google Alerts. *g* It's ridiculous.

(Although I'm a little curious as to how they're going to cast the final, what with all the whining about how all the teams in the semis got there by luck. As if anyone gets into a CL final by merely getting lucky.)


(Sorry, had to edit previous comment for typos.)