It’s much harder to talk about the things you dislike than about the things you don’t. I find that love has a more indefinable quality than hate, but I’ll try to make some sense anyway.
FC Barcelona. This damn club. I’ll never forgive it for sucking me in and I’ll never forgive it for holding on to me so relentlessly. The decisions I’ve made when I was younger have often been uninformed, but I can safely say that supporting Barcelona was not one of them. It’s been through incredible ups and demoralising downs as every other club has, I suppose, but it’s retained the core of what it really is. You know what I’m talking about, that essential bit that makes us all who we are, which we sometimes tend to lose along the way. But Barça never has. It’s evolved (and devolved) and still kept its soul. And it’s kept us too. Is this not why we love the club? Hard to say, really.
2007-2008 was a season of revolution. The year before had ended with only the Supercopa in our hands and had left all of us disheartened. It wasn’t entirely because of the lack of silver, but rather because we were missing something. Something new, something indiscernible, something that was entirely necessary. Ronaldinho left in 2008. Remember how much we loved him? How much we still do? I do not know what to say about his departure. He came and he made us love him, and then he left. It’s the way things go, but it’ll never get easier as the seasons wear on.
But look, 07-08 was knocking at our door, a wind of change tore through Camp Nou and perhaps it wasn’t so bad after all. Perhaps we’d be okay, even without our favourite. New players joined us and while it in no way filled that hole Ronaldinho had left (individuals can never be replaced, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), it did heal us. As is the case with the ones who love us, we came to love them as well and we mourned their eventual leaving.
And then everything changed, it’s how they always talk about these things: Gradually, then suddenly. Pep Guardiola, Barça’s number four, joined us. He’d been a player only a few short years before and now he was going to lead us again. I do not know what he told his players, but it must have been something phenomenal. Coaches mostly talk, you know, they talk and you listen. I imagine when Pep stood before them and they all had their eyes glued on him, he must have made them believe in magic (and he still does). He built Camp Nou out of sentences, changed the spectators from question marks to exclamation points, fabricated the players out of letters and numbers and laid the game out in syllables. Together they formed an orchestra, a story, a love note. Magic.
He didn’t just give us hope, because that can only take one so far, he gave us the utter conviction of being able to do anything. He already knew, he’d always known, and now he was going to show the world who FC Barcelona really was. Tenim un nom, el sap tothom.
When he looks at his players, and Camp Nou all around them, he sees something he’s strung together with years of experience, and with love (always love, can’t do anything without it). Look then at these letters and punctuations marks and syllables and sounds, do they not make the most beautiful tale? You know the best part, don’t you? This is fact, not fiction.
This may be our golden era and we might never see something like this ever again, but it won’t be for a lack of that indefinable quality. We may never see Barcelona dressed in blaugrana like it’s been these past few years, but we’ll still be here, wearing these colours. Tots units fem força, after all, no matter where we’re from.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in art history, it’s that pictures are ephemeral, but images cannot be killed. They live on forever.