Quote of the week

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Stories of Barça’s demise greatly exaggerated

More Than A Club...
More to come...
Stories of Barcelona’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

It’s what everyone seems to be talking about, or secretly hoping for. Alas, there are but a few tweaks needed to this juggernaut.

Barcelona, for example, are rumoured to be close to signing Valencia defender Jeremy Mathieu. They have already signed Neymar, a promising talent.

These two players alone improve the team immeasurably; mainly by potentially providing help upfront to Lionel Messi (Neymar) and, by signing Mathieu, adding not only a top-class defender, but height at set-pieces – a shortage that cost Barcelona at crucial moments this past season.

Above all, though, is the system. It’s why there’s always hope for Barcelona.

For me, Barça are like the San Antonio Spurs – the system is the most important factor in their success. That is the beauty of what Pep Guardiola imparted and perfected at Barcelona, building on Frank Rijkaard’s good work and Johan Cruyff’s bible.

As long as the three pillars (Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Messi) remain there will be success. It’s similar to the Spurs with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili; as long as those three are intact, under Coach Gregg Popovich, all is good in the hood.

These are champion athletes; they are a different breed from the everyday person. They have reached a level millions dream of and strive for, and have mastered their craft. Their motivation can’t be questioned.

Group hug!
The Three Pillars - Xavi, Messi and Iniesta
Yes, they will go through lows – they are human – but ultimately champions always discover ways to adapt and improve.

Forget not that Barcelona’s failure is winning the league with 100 points and reaching the Champions League semi-finals. This is how great they’ve become.

Context and perspective shouldn’t be discarded.

This remains a colossal club with a prolific youth system and an ingrained culture. Their run is far from over. Expect Barcelona to remain the benchmark for the next four to five years.

Speaking of the Spurs, I pick them to win the NBA Finals over the Miami Heat. Partly that’s because I’m so hopeless at making predictions.

Deep down I want the Heat to win it all, so I’m hoping I’ll turn out to be wrong – again.

I would love to see LeBron James and his Heatles emerge as champions. I am a James fan – unashamed. I was Cavalier, now I’m hot in South Beach because of him. In my opinion James is the greatest basketballer the world has ever seen.

But, back to topic...

I believe the Spurs have too much for the Heat. It’s been said San Antonio don’t have Roy Hibbert, who terrorised the Heat with his length during the seven-game nail-biter against the Indiana Pacers. But the Spurs have Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. They will cause havoc for the Heat aerially.

That’s a three-headed monster Coach Popovich will be able to rotate. And essentially it means the Spurs will have a fresh big-man throughout the 48 minutes whereas Hibbert was, let’s face it, eventually overworked and worked out by the Heat.

The Spurs offence is also so efficient. They won’t give away turnovers – the Pacers had 21 in Game 7 – and in Tony Parker they have a man who can consistently cut through the Heat’s heart.

"In the game like Tony Parker."
The scariest thing on the Heat’s part is I expect San Antonio to steal one of the opening two games of the series in Miami.

Going for the Heat is LeBron James. He’s reached such a level of greatness he can take over any game, anytime. What’s most special is his ability to control a game, not just win it with a buzzer-beater. He can dictate where he teammates will be, get them in good positions to score and, if needs be, do it all himself.

Worryingly, Dwyane Wade is off thanks to a troublesome knee. He’s a wonderful competitor and he will produce a Flash-night like his game-swinging 21-point effort in Game 7 against the Pacers, but it hasn’t been consistent.

Sadly, I can’t count Chris Bosh as a series-swaying factor. Yes, he’s a top-notch basketballer, but like Wade he’s also hobbled. Still, even without injury, I am yet to see Bosh really impose himself on the Heat’s destiny during his three years in Miami.

This is the San Antonio Spurs; a consistent high level of play from all five players on the court is a minimum requirement.

I hope I’m proven wrong. I hope my prediction is incorrect.

But the head says San Antonio, in seven. Sigh.

Signed: Teboho Kitela Molapo


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