“You can’t score if you don’t shoot”
It’s easy to overdo the superlatives when talking about Johan Cruyff, revolutionary, tactical genius, international footballing icon and, in the case of the aforementioned quote, constructer of pointlessly, sweeping generalisations.
Clichéd sentiment such as this eternal musing on the beautiful game is usually relegated to the type of pundit for whom loquacious inspiration is a contradiction in terms. 45 minutes into this uncharacteristically open contest, both sides have shot with great profusion, yet the score resolutely remains 0-0. The halftime whistle beckons the hordes of expectant children onto the newly vacated field and goals, those most elusive facets of 3rd division Spanish football, suddenly abound.
It’s been a fair shift since the last home match, during which time our local heroes of UE Sants have been playing away around the various suburbs of Barcelona. During said period of ‘away days’, a grand total of 0 points have been accrued, something that is quickly coming to characterise most of my visits to see the mighty ‘green-and-whites’. With such profligacy in the hunt for a win you would think that Sants would be rooted irrevocably to the foot of the table, yet unbelievably and despite having won only two games this season, Sants sit 19th out of the inexplicably odd-numbered league of 21 teams.
Someone is winning somewhere, it’s just we never go to those games and better off we are for it too. Watching Sants is like dealing with a fine wine, a game of ultimate patience and faith that may not lead to any positive outcome. When, and if, three points ever present themselves with myself as a witness, the joy will be ten-fold. You don’t get this at the Camp Nou, by the way.
Today’s guests, Europa, pride themselves on being the city of Barcelona’s 3rd biggest club, following in the tremendously distant footsteps of RCDE Espanyol and of course the eponymous giants that define this city. This tertiary feeling of superiority stems from a golden period in the late 20s in which they were one of the founding members of La Liga, commendably competing in the first three editions, before never really recovering from the political upheaval in the 1930s.
Despite such grandiose beginnings, their first-half showing leaves little doubt that the glory days are vehemently behind them. To this end, I suppose we can look upon them as an inoffensive version of Liverpool. Basing oneself entirely on past glories is always a dangerous game as you tend to set yourself up for a fall (apologies for the pun Mr S. Gerrard). No, in my opinion, the honorable club’s trophy cabinet should be the physical embodiment of their prided mediocrity.
Europa score almost immediately after half time, their quasi-shamanic celebrations are at variance with the disconsolate devastation shown by the home team, telling you all you need to know in a league where often the opening salvo decides the contest as whole. It is with a grim sense of inevitability mere minutes later a hopeful long ball bounces oh-so-hopelessly over the last defender, gifting itself to the centre-forward who dutifully obliges. 0-2.
The inner Sunday-league player in us all sympathises with the dejected home centre-back, while the outward persona of virile masculinity makes itself known by a few shouts to the tune of ‘that was shite’. Such fragile bravado in the face of certain defeat belies the notion that none of us, the watching public could have done any better.
Cover image courtesy of Matthew Wilkinson via Flickr
Read more of Laurence’s take of football here.