To Spaniards, as well as most English-speaking soccer fans, the Spanish League is recognized as La Liga. Nearly every story on European soccer is full of these overexuberant italicized interruptions: blaugrana, La Liga, Even most of the stars have italicized nicknames: Lionel alias is, evidently, La Pulga, It makes everything in soccer sound stranger than it actually is.
Fans of Barcelona celebrate before the FIFA Club World Cup Final match between Estudiantes LP and Football Club Barcelona at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on December 19, 2009, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Imagine that the Super Bowl champs, the Saints, as well as the runners-up, the Colts, and the other two the Jets and the Vikings, were all entered the following year into a season-long tournament against the other top NFL teams from the other NFL-style leagues around the top four from Russia, The Netherlands, France and England. If every country had its own NFL league and wanted to determine the best NFL-style club the Champions League in soccer. In addition to the Champions League, a bewildering number of special in-season tournaments, friendly matches and and they all happen six to nine hours in the future. why so hard for a casual fan to follow not a game, a lifestyle.
Even more subtext than Packers fans who had to watch Brett Favre in a Vikings uniform in Lambeau Field last season.
June 2010 deltaskymag.com
FOR PHOTO CREDITS SEE PAGE 120.
This should go without saying, but the World Cup is a big deal. Because soccer is the only truly global sport, the World Cup moves and disappoints and entertains and in turn connects more people than any other sporting event.
no doubt into which category I fall), European club soccer is a highly live impenetrably so. And the World Cup happens only every four years, so comprehending where Barcelona was in the context of both the Spanish League season and the Champions League tournament was way more than, say, not following college basketball until the beginning of March and then Googling teams to out an NCAA tournament bracket. has been a soccer team since 1899, and its history is all on display in the museum inside of Camp surprisingly, the most popular museum in Barcelona. omnipresent motto is que un and wallets, T-shirts and soccer balls in the pro shop, spelled out in gigantic letters by the seats. Catalan for than a a motto fom the Franco dictatorship era, when the Catalan language and its were suppressed and the only place Franco allowed residents to express themselves was at the stadium on game day. a lot of subtext. But a homework is never very hard, and in this case, because the Spanish national team is the reigning European champion and the favorite at the World Cup, and because La Furia Roja (the nickname) plays style, an understanding of will enhance one of the most compelling storylines of this World Cup. Afer my seat at Camp Nou, I watched play a highly sophisticated game of keep-away fom Osasuna, an overmatched team fom Pamplona. uniforms, white with red trim, are remi-
niscent of the Basque-country patrons who run with the bulls. Despite a half that ended in a scoreless tie, was so dominant that at times it looked as if 11 panicked dudes in red kerchiefs were chasing shadows, desperate to avoid being gored by blue-and-claret-striped bulls. The crowd was singing Catalonian anthems and the separatist Catalonian but the energy was more restless than ecstatic. There were moments of for artistic passes, gasps for athletic saves or near aferward, the general lethargy would immediately resume. I had done enough homework to understand why my fellow soccer cathedral-goers feaking out afer 45 minutes of scoreless football: This game was a needed breather. was in the middle of the most challenging part of its season, and I had caught the team in a brief lull. It was in the midst of a dual-title year, it at the top of La Liga and beat Manchester United in the Champions League in Rome. More than three-quarters of the way through a 38-match La Liga schedule, needed a win against Osasuna to keep pace, but could the players be forgiven for a lackluster, workmanlike result? No, no they That be style. The president of is Joan Laporta, a proud Catalan lawyer who won the presidency on a platform consisting of an avowal to style and a promise to deliver David Beckham. (He had to settle on the Brazilian star Ronaldinho instead; Beckham went to Madrid.) style is an expression of our Catalan he says. try to play beautiful, having the control of