Column: Madrid, Barca prep for first La Liga match
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 22:10
It is unlike any other match in the world, it is at its core a battle of ideology and ethos that are totally and completely contradictory. It is a battle of two footballing and political capitals. It is known simply as, El Clásico. It is FC Barçelona versus Real Madrid.
To understand what this match really means is to step out of the bubble of sport and discuss real life.
Spain is still in its second recession in three years with an overall unemployment rate of nearly 25%. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been forced to make budget cuts across the board to equate to a lesser amount being brought in the floundering Spanish economy. Last week, Rajoy made harsh new public service cuts, pay freezes and tax increases that will undoubtedly add fuel to the political and economic fire in Spain.
What the hell does this have to do with a football match? Well in one word: everything.
More than 70 years ago Spain, like most European nations was undergoing an identity shift. This shift eventually turned into a full fledged Civil War as the nationalist and Madrid based rule in Spain was being questioned for the first time by those in the East in Basque Country and Catalonia, home of FC Barçelona.
After more than 30 months of fighting the nationalists in Madrid won the war and what followed was a military dictator government from 1939 to 1975. Catalonia was hit particularly hard as they were forced to cope with the annulment of democratic liberties, the prohibition and persecution of parties, the rise of thoroughgoing censorship and the banning of all leftist institutions.
Finally in 1978 Spain adopted a new constitution and restored democracy, which gave authority to the regions and created an internal organization based on autonomous communities like the Basque Country and Catalonia.
Even with democracy restored in Spain, tension remains high in certain communities about their independence.
In recent weeks Catalonian Parliament has decided to hold an “independence referendum,” where they could make their plans to move toward being an independent nation. The Catalan economy has stayed particularly strong during the recession due to strong union sentiment and anti corporate tendencies in the area.
Just two weeks ago former FC Barçelona manager Pep Guardiola voiced his desire to see Catalonian Independence saying, “Here’s one more vote for independence.”
Off the field the two clubs have a totally different ethos that dictates the way they play. Real Madrid flex their financial muscles and have always signed the best players in the world no matter what the costs. The likes of Zinédine Zidane, Luís Figo, Roberto Carlos, Raúl, David Beckham, Fábio Coentrão, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Karim Benzema, Mesut Özil, Luka Modrić and Gonzalo Higuaín have all been dubbed Los Galácticos signings.
While FC Barçelona have always been known as the team that creates their starts, with the world famous La Masia de Can Planes youth academy producing the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jordi Cruyff, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández, Mikel Arteta, Thiago Motta, Pepe Reina, Víctor Valdés, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fàbregas, Gerard Piqué, Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.
The way the two clubs play is even opposite. Real Madrid play on the counter attack and utilize their supreme power and pace to tear teams apart, while FC Barçelona almost put teams to sleep with their hypnotic possession game, constantly searching for gaps in defense.