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Why We Support Barça: Our Style is our Substance

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There has been abroad in the various Barça blogs recently (including this one) a growing tendency to retort to any criticism of match performance with cries of pessimism, accusations of not savouring the win, of overly high standards. Even accusations of not being a true supporter. Well this last one requires the gloves to come off!

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There are many categories of support we can impose on the FC Barcelona fan base but arguably two of the broadest are 1) those who are from Barcelona/Catalonia 2) those who hail from elsewhere. The reasons for the allegiance of the first category can be the clearest, where one's affection extends no further than a feeling that Barça represents the part of the world or country one hails from. However, such is the general football education in Catalonia that this is rarely the entire story as to why Catalonians support their biggest club. There is a palpable pride on the streets of Catalonia in the type of football that the club committed to in the last century and has persisted with even though it meant a decade or so where trophies were the exception as opposed to the rule. Significantly, it is *this* reason for allegiance which unites most Catalans with the second category of fans because, if we are not Catalan or we don't live there, all we have is the style, their philosophy. After all, if we aren't supporting Barça for their philosophy why are we supporting them? Was it some arbitrary decision to follow a team or was it affection for one particular group of players that carried over like a habit into later generations. For me, these are rather vapid reasons for following a club and why I have often been bemused by fans of soulless entities like... (well.. I'm going to make enough enemies among FCB fans here so, I'll leave that one alone). If the club does not mean something to you personally, I don't see what your interest is; I don't see how it can have any depth.

A true supporter has a vested interest in the club and, for me, Barça is one of the few clubs that has something that non-locals can invest in. I'm a socio, I have been since before the heyday of Pep's transformation. I joined up when finishing outside the top two wasn't a big surprise. I've been to the Camp Nou countless times and have seen different Barça teams ply their trade with different degrees of success. However, I'm not Catalan, I'm Irish. I didn't join out of a sense of nationalism or pride in my homeland. I joined up because I saw something in Barça, even in their losses, which I could relate to, an approach to the game that transforms it as a sport and without which my affection for that sport subsides. For these very reasons, I don't watch Barça games casually and so the idea of basking in three points from a performance that belied those ideals is completely alien to me (* see my footnote).

As a Barça supporter, our vision should be broader. The socios and the supporters *are* our club, and as such, we expect the players and staff to live up to the club's ideals, the ideals that mean something to us. If those ideals pertain the Cruyffian style that has come to define this club, then our obligation is to the football - win lose, or draw. We're not in it for the victories, the three points, or even the trophies. We're in it because the type of football means something to us. Thus, I wholeheartedly believe that my job of as a supporter-commentator is to comment on the football, the tactics, the positioning, the form of the players, etc. If they win or lose, all I want is to see is the fluid execution of the "Pass-Show-Receive-Repeat" philosophy. We have a right to be annoyed when we lose *but* it's the football we are interested in. We have a right to be annoyed when we win *because* it's the football we are interested in. The trophies are just sweet justification for our adherence to that revered philosophy. If the trophies come from the execution of a contradictory philosophy or no philosophy at all, as someone who doesn't hail from Barcelona, I'd feel like a fraud for celebrating them. They just wouldn't mean anything to me.

*          Actually, this should also apply to teams that have no overt philosophy or style. Not a trophy worth fighting for has ever come down to a single game so there is an onus on *every* supporter of *every* team to look past any given three points or victory to the overall campaign, to use the performance in a given match to judge likelihood of performance across the campaign. If you're enjoying your team on a game by game basis, you might be a fan but you're no supporter.