Felicitats, Real Madrid: On Losing (and Winning) With Dignity

Thiago and Alves's dance was stopped by the captain (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

We all knew this day would come: the day Real Madrid would reclaim the La Liga crown. Their win over Athletic Bilbao was convincing and they deserve praise for their footballlng quality. That is all I want to say about them at the moment. I admit I didn't pay much attention to their celebrations but I hope - for their sake, not mine - that they are enjoying their success with dignity. I won't say anything else about the team in white because I feel it inappropriate to raise a debate over their ethics in the past at the moment.

Instead, I will focus on Barcelona... this being a Barcelona blog and all. It has been said that anyone can be a good winner, the true mark of a champion is being a good loser. This is a new test for more recent Cules, although anyone following sport for long enough will have to learn to accept defeat as a stepping stone in the process of victory. The club's director of football put it best: "Today is not the day" to talk about referees, said Andoni Zubizarreta. "Today is the day to congratulate the champions."

The sportsmanship of certain Blaugrana players has been doubted by several people- rival managers, players, and fans. But can anyone doubt that the leadership of this team has its heart in the right place? When Dani Alves and Thiago Alcantara choreographed a dance after scoring the 5th goal in a 7-0 rout away to Rayo Vallecano, captain Carles Puyol ran towards them.

He was not there to congratulate them for a beautiful move to score. No, he was angry with them for lacking sportsmanship. Manager Pep Guardiola elaborated in the post-match press conference: "those are not the actions of a Barcelona player. It won't happen again."

Dani Alves and Thiago have now gone on to apologize, saying the emotion of the moment got to them. "It won't happen again," Thiago promised.

This, mind you, over a dance. Not the classiest thing a player in the Barca strip has done, but hardly a crime. The point is that even in professional sports, it's not always just about winning or losing, but about how it was done. Maybe it's romantic to believe that, but the Barcelona way can be romantic. And the Barcelona way has served us well. Fans have more leeway to act nasty in all situations, but they should know that they won't look very good for it.

I hope all Cules give Real Madrid their congratulations on winning the 2011-12 La Liga and move to focus on the coming competitions. It's not the time to be nasty. It's not the time for desperation, either. Barcelona may end up collecting four trophies this season. You can talk all day about how they are not quite as "important" but how many teams go for years on end without a single trophy?

Soon, I hope all Cules will get back to more familiar business and act with class after winning the Copa del Rey. In the meantime, be proud to know you can have dignity even in defeat.

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