Saturday, June 9, 2007


Barcelona 1 - 1 Espanyol

I am still in shock.
I can't believe such a glorious game at the Camp Nou could end in such a way. It is shocking.
In a very important game against their hated cross-town rivals Espanyol, Barcelona came down from 0-1 to tie the score at the end of the first half, and then went up 2-1. They were playing brilliantly, Messi especially, and the Camp Nou was full and rocking. It was quite a spectacle, and I couldn't believe that my housemate Bea had actually hooked me up with a ticket. I was at the biggest home match of the year.
At the same time in Zaragoza, the home side was taking it to Madrid, leading by 1-0 and then 2-1, deep into the 2nd half. Because Madrid and Barcelona are tied for first, a B win coupled with a M loss would, with one game left, almost certainly win it for Barca. The place was ready to pop.

Then terror struck. It may well go down as the single minute that determined the Liga 07.
It was around the 42nd minute. The man sitting in front of us cursed out loud and groaned and started telling everyone around that Madrid had tied their game at 2. This was a real shame-- the entire stadium had gone bonkers for both Zaragoza goals that put them in the lead (many spectators show up to the game with earphones to listen at the same time on the radio. Thus, although it was prohibited to post the score of the game on the stadium scoreboard, the crowd reacted immediately to the radio commentators, and the players obviously knew that Madrid was losing.) Well, no matter: even if Madrid salvaged a tie, a Barca win would make them controllers of their own destiny.
And what destiny! Not 30 seconds later, Espanyol got a nice pass downfield and found one of their aging starts, Tamudo, on a breakaway. (The underlying irony: both Tamudo and Espanyol's other key player, De la Peña, are from Barcelona; the latter, who had an incredible game, used to actually play for Barca.) The goalie was forced to come out and try to cut off the angle, and he neatly stuck it between Valdes's legs and into the net for his second goal of the game (as if to spit in the face of Messi’s two wonderful goals-- one of which involved heading the ball with his hand while hurtling through the keeper's space, a feat equal parts beautiful and illegal).
It is hard to express the collective shock that 95,000 people went into. This turnaround meant that, basically, Barcelona and Madrid would remain tied for the lead, which is very bad indeed as Madrid holds the tiebreaker advantage (they won and tied in head to head competition). Next week, Madrid is home to a mediocre Mallorca team and Barcelona is away at a very bad team-- but it doesn' t matter. The league is Madrid’s to lose.
And to think that EVERYONE in the stadium, with 3 mins left in the game, was thinking about the celebratory parade that would take place the following Monday. Barca has won 2 league titles in a row, and this year (in which Barca has tumbled rather pitifully out of their other 2 competitions, the League Cup and the Champions League) would have really put a dynasty-type exclamation point on the whole thing. And I would have been here for it! Fucking shitbag!
I never did like their goalie, Vickie Valdes. He’s generally solid but unfortunately error-prone. He really picked a moment here, let me tell you. I haven’t seen the reply yet, so I’m not 100% sure it was his error, but that’s how I keep replaying the thing in my head. And I can’t stop replaying it. What a terrible long walk to the metro. I tell you, if I had some opium to come home to… but I don’t even have any whiskey here, it turns out. Me cago en la puta, tio. I shit on the whore, dude.
Thus what was to be a crowning moment of my summer stay here has been effectively waved in front of my face like candy in front of a baby, and then taken away just as fast. Ugh-- the vision of thousands of Real Madrid fans mobbing Cibeles Plaza to greet the team bus is going to bother me for a long time. Me cago en la hostia macho. De verdad estoy…defeated. Vencido, tio, callado.

I cannot remember another key sports moment when it’s so clear how just one game—and thus an entire season—could so easily go one way or the other. If Valdes blocks the shot, we would have been singing in the streets on the way home and reflecting on just how well B played, and congratulating Zaragoza for holding Madrid to a tie. But instead it was the Bataan Death March: people confused, angered, disappointed, ready to pick a fight. All because of one stupid minute.

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