Messi’s winner in El clásico but forget the goal, look at the faces.

If I knew someone who wanted to know what football was about; what was its attraction, I’d show them this…or perhaps I wouldn’t. Football takes up too much of a person’s time and money. If they’ve got this far through life without getting into soccer, then good for them and they should try to keep it that way. Football’s not always this exciting and poetic.

Forget the goal? Like DeNiro on the phone, from the kitchen, in ‘Heat’ to poor, deluded, William Fichtner, “forget the money”, yes, forget the goal. The goal itself is unexceptional save for the excellent work by Sergi Roberto, barreling his way up the field when the game’s hour glass was about the run out. It’s everything around the goal that articulates.

To that person who doesn’t understand football, I’d explain that, coming to the end of the season, white-shirted Real Madrid led La Liga by three points from Barcelona. This game was a six-pointer (if you win, you get three points yourself while simultaneously denying your rivals their three points). That five minutes ago, Barcelona had led 2-1. They were poised to go top of La Liga on goal difference (while Real still had one game more left to play than Barcelona’s remaining number) but Real Madrid had managed to force an equaliser, and with only ten men on the pitch too as Sergio Ramos had been sent off for a two-footed assault on Lionel Messi eight minutes beforehand. 2-2 would have been like a win for Real, in the wider context, and a loss for Barcelona. They needed a goal and had almost no time left.

Here though, in added on time at the end of an hurly-burly hour and a half, the one goal, and the one second it takes to score a goal, put a big spin on things. Real Madrid were doing the right thing, pressuring the men on the ball in the Barcelona half: the further away the ball from your own goal, the harder it is to score. Yet Roberto steamrollered his way up the field, and a pass, an overlap and Messi placed it home.

As goals go, we’ve seen better. Both Messi and Real’s Ronaldo are goal machines, with records that leave one gasping for reality, like Neo in ‘The Matrix’ but, no, it really is reality. Messi’s really scored 502 goals in 578 games for Barca and Cristiano Ronaldo’s really scored 395 goals in 387 games for Real. Astonishing. But with this, forget the goal and study the faces.

The players of Real all hit the deck or look off into the distance. It’s the second minute of added time and they know that that’s that. It’s like a film by Leone or Fellini: the faces tell you everything you need to know. From my British perspective, it’s a surprise to see fans behind the goal greet it with celebration when this was at Real’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Messi stands, takes his shirt off, and shows it to the Barcelona crowd who are up in the heavens (see 0.51 – 0.52) but those on that lower tier: some are cheering and are seemingly Barca fans within the mass of Real home support. I would have expected that Messi would get greeted with a hail of rubbish thrown his way as he stood there for quite sometime but none came, and he knew that none would come. Some also say that he was making some backhanded commentary about Messi No. 10 as opposed to Ronaldo’s ‘CR7’.

The side on, close-up of the Messi (see 1.26 – 1.41) again shows how that background was mainly Real fans but some Barca too, who were celebrating the goal openly. Very strange. Also, so many Real fans have their hands on their heads in disappointment. I once saw a woman who explained that each of the six languages she could speak led to her naturally accompanying each language with different hand movements: maybe the hands on heads is a very Spanish gesture? It’s common elsewhere in the world but this seems almost uniform here.

So, this is a beautiful thing, this climax to el clasico; something that might turn someone’s head towards taking more interest in football but I’m jealous of such individuals. They don’t know how much time, effort and money they save in being oblivious to the beautiful game. Good for them. They should stay away if they know what’s good for them.

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