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

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Happy Barça Feet

Happy Barça Smiles
Barcelona’s football ethos is really their success.

Their approach, an approach that is possession-centric, low on stress and very happy, is what has driven the club’s exploits over the past two years.

Of course, this would appear obvious to say, but the less obvious part is how Barça’s attitude towards the game maintains them physically and mentally.

It dawned on me last Thursday morning.

I was browsing Twitter, and then Barcelona tweeted.
After beating Sporting Gijon the previous night, Barcelona players were in an early morning training session. This is a team that had just played its 16th competitive game since winning the World Club Cup in Japan on December 20; a team that had played away from home the night before.

But here was Barça, at training, doing rondos.

Barcelona’s approach to football is magnificent because lends itself to dominance, but the unsung beauty of what Barça is doing now is it doesn’t tire the players physically, or mentally, as such consistent greatness would reason to require.

In 1991, after four years of Arrigo Sacchi’s demanding football utopia, AC Milan’s players were spent and the coach himself worn out. As Aldo Serena explained later, everyone was drained after a period in which Milan won eight trophies including back-to-back European Cups.

“The players admired Sacchi and had understood his importance for their professional growth, but after four years we were quite stressed and exasperated by (Sacchi’s) concepts,” Serena said.

“There was a need for slightly less severe sessions, still tough, but a bit more enjoyable.”

So, here is Barcelona, another utopia but one seemingly on a totally different level on the stress scale.

Oftentimes we associate winning with sweat, strife and anger. These are all crucial elements, but perhaps the greatest of all is tranquillity, both physical and mental.

Barcelona are able to train more; remain fresh; go win a game; and repeat the cycle.

This is the genius of Barcelona and a credit to Luis Enrique who has fostered a relaxed spirit at the club.

He demands a lot of the players, but he has not been overbearing, a criticism he had during his time at Roma.

Enrique, a graduate of the Barça way, also demands perfection. However, is not a perfectionist as Pep Guardiola was, a genius who fell prey to the Sacchi syndrome towards the end of his Barça reign four years ago.

So, the Barcelona players are free to make mistakes and once in a while they will hoof the ball forward and scramble a goal like they did against Las Palmas on Saturday.
Illustration of Neymar's goal v Las Palmas
They will win the game, and that is why this Barcelona team is enjoying the longest undefeated streak in club history – 32 games.

Their whole style permeates a sense of freedom. They are happy; relaxation is more sought after than perfection.

Obviously the players do suffer; there is a lot of suffering that goes into 90 minutes of top level football. Barcelona still aim to press the ball high and win it quickly. This requires energy. They still have to defend, run and chase. This requires discipline.

But, more than anything, there is a lot of smiling in a Barcelona game.

If you are fighting wars all time you will get tired, I would suppose even training sessions don’t give you as much because you are beat up most of the time. Also, you expend so much that injuries become another opponent.

Not Barcelona.

Heading into this past weekend, only Rafinha was on the club’s injury list with a raptured knee cruciate ligament that has kept him out since September. This is quite incredible considering Barcelona’s load of games and the level of competition they face.

And, it’s not just Barcelona that win.

What I mean is there are other teams winning games. Juventus, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are winning weekly, Arsenal have also won a lot of games. But often there is either too much suffering (Juventus) or striving to attain some sort of footballing flawlessness (Bayern and Arsenal).

Barcelona are free.

Maybe winning a treble the previous season helps. You perhaps have less to prove if you are Enrique and more margins for error if you are the players.

But, then, when I read that Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are the best friends in the history of football, it solidifies everything I am thinking.

This is just a very happy club. Because even though Barça are successful, someone should cry that he is not playing enough, someone should complain they are being played out of position and someone should sulk that they are not scoring as many goals as they would like.
We score many goals - MSN
Obviously, there are talent-specific things Barcelona do that no one else can. No one can dribble everyone and score like Messi. No one can escape six opponents on the centre circle and then provide a pin-point through-pass like Andres Iniesta.

But, I am thinking everyone can aim to be free when they play too, like the Golden State Warriors are doing in the NBA or New Zealand’s All Blacks did at the Rugby World Cup last year.

“It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit,” the great John Wooden also said. That is Barcelona; that is Golden State; that is the All Blacks.

I may have gone off topic a bit, but this is a club setup worth acclaiming.

Barcelona are perfect by not being perfect. They amaze by having fun. Their style is loose and blissful and I figured this is another reason for their success, apart from their history, years of planning and transcendent talent.

Happy winning is the best winning and I just think we have never seen this kind of beast in the history of football.

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