The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Roswitha at Treasons, Stratagems & Spoils has written a really smart post contrasting Barcelona and Milan, looking at each club not just as a collection of players but as a set of accumulated cultural meanings which each club tries to manage and market. It’s a fruitful comparison and teases out a lot of subtle truths about each team, from Milan’s self-presentation as the “patricians of Europe”—“They dress in Dolce & Gabbana, speak in soft, measured tones of ‘history,’ and ‘respect,’ and insistently emphasize their notions of traditions and continuity”—to Barça’s counterintuitive combination of free-flowing radicalism and sharp-eyed salesmanship. This last bit gets at some of the reservations I’ve always had about Barcelona, but also at the reasons why you can just about love them anyway:
Even at their most shamelessly capitalist, Barca will insist on marketing themselves as the heart and soul of their left-wing national ideal. There are some things money can’t buy, but Barca’s globalised peddling of Catalan pride isn’t one of them, as Espanyol will testify. But whether or not it takes away the edge that ‘more than a club’ would imply in such a case, sometimes, marketing things just doesn’t make them any less real. In the money-grubbing, amoral cartel that makes up the G-14, Barca’s constant pushing of the symbolic values of freedom, their practically peerless contribution to developing local football with local youth, and their unquestioning shelter of the likes of Oleguer Presas in the same orbit as their galactic, global icons, is a beautiful thing to see, even when it slides into illusion.
The whole post is worth a read for anyone interested in the ways teams acquire and exploit their identities.
by Brian Phillips · December 5, 2007