“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”
I need the beautiful game. More so now than ever. As I write this, on May 13th, I am somewhat exhausted having just watched Levante justifiably end Barça’s unbeaten run. But there is still so much still to live through in the coming days. Football carries me to a different place mentally not to mention physically (among our friends in the crowded mountain village bar and occasionally to the Camp Nou). By the time you are reading this we will all know the results and the adrenalin will be abating, so it is vital to bottle the buzz right now to preserve it a little longer.
Bill Shankly, a more significant name in my childhood than any politician, film, pop or sports star, the defining advocate of why soccer matters, would be enthralled and delighted. He was the ultimate obsessive, the man who said “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
If, perhaps, you are not aware of this wry, tough Scotsman who at 15 years of age went to work in a mine, then just let me say he became one of the greatest club leaders, a purist, iron on the outside, soft in the middle, loyal, principled and an absolute Liverpool legend after what he achieved during the 1960s and 70s.
What am I getting all emotional about?
Andres Iniesta, whose bewitching turns, passes and goals have been worthy of the Ballon D’Dor at least once in his long career (I despair), is about to leave the family. As we witnessed before, that which is far more than just a club will honour one of its own like no other club can. I expect I will cry. The man is a genius, free of vanities, the ultimate professional and like Pele the beautiful game personified. The mutual loyalties of man and club speak volumes for both.
Andres has already lifted the league and cup trophies and captained his side to a record number of unbeaten games. A shame the run could not have lasted the whole season, but Levante were worthy winners today.
There is one last thing.
Ex-Liverpool manager Shankly would want his team to wipe the board with Madrid, to run rings round them in the CL final. It has to be. I will be in the bar wearing red. If Liverpool have not won don’t talk to me about it.
And as for the game itself and why I have no doubt whatsoever Bill would have loved the Barcelona teams in which Andres has been integral, he once said this: “Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple.”
Yes it is. But nigh on impossible to do consistently.
Thank you Andres.