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Growing up in England my earliest footballing memories are of the Premier League. I remember the likes of the Arsenal Invincibles, Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominating United and the arrival of Jose Mourinho to English shores. Spain, nor any other European country, was never really on my radar in a footballing sense. That was until a certain David Beckham made the switch from Manchester to Madrid.
It my mind, it made no sense. As a youngster growing up, United were the biggest club in the world and that was without question. I had no knowledge of Real Madrid so the idea that Beckham would want to leave to join them made no sense to me.
The move brought about an enlightenment to my footballing world and opened new doors to European giants such as Madrid, Milan and Bayern Munich. Barcelona too came into the fray. Ronaldinho was forever making headlines and had the kids in the playground attempting his tricks. The dazzling feet in the red and blue shirt was forever being replicated during school lunch times.
You had your kids playing on the wing with Giggs on his shirt and the lad who would try outrageous volleys from every angle while shouting “ROONEY” (this was me) and you also had the player who tried the seven step-overs in a row. Being dispossessed would be greeted with a response of “alright, Ronaldinho”.
Barça remained a thought in the back of my mind until I bought my first Barça shirt. I don’t really remember the reasoning behind it but my first purchase was the 2010-11 home kit with David Villa’s name on the back as his number was my birthday. I began to regularly watch Barça during this incredible season that saw the Guardiola squad at the height of its powers.
It was more than just an admiration of the football though, it was an admiration in the manner in which they conducted themselves. The belief in their own and the non-flashiness of the players off the field was a stark contrast to the rising individualism of the modern game. Guardiola’s ethos was centred around the team, all for one and one for all.
The Mes que un Club motto was an important one to me as it really did symbolise what Barça was. This wasn’t just a football club, it was a representation of a set of ideals and beliefs. This period came at a crucial time in my own development as it was through my teenage years. Seeing the principles behind Barcelona and the rewards it brings was something I tried to adopt into my own life. Sadly, I think the club has strayed from this belief and is becoming less and less an unique club and more just part of the footballing elite.
I’m still hooked now just because of the madness of it all. The eternal rivalry with Real Madrid and the absolute demand for perfection is what pushes Barça to the top and is why it is so compelling.
Take for example my own club. I make no secret that my main club is Ipswich Town as it where I was born and a run of three draws there is not the end of the world. Contrast that to Barça and the crisis button has been firmly pressed. I love the craziness of it all that any logical thought is tossed out of the window and that there is such a desire in reaching perfection that any minor wobble is cause for change.
The trophies, the players, the fans, the stadium, the history, the rivalries, the political surroundings, the hidden meanings, the mind games, the ongoing fight to be the best. I can't get enough of it and long may it continue.
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