Being a Barcelona fan is an easy job. Now, there’s a club you can almost always count on, irrespective of the bad day you’ve been having. You know you can trust the Blaugrana to win it for you.
But even in the life of a culé come certain rare days when we are in a spot, unable to match those cheeky comments from the fans of Los Blancos, or worse, losing to them.
But 14th February 2017 was a different affair altogether. The day saw a mighty Paris Saint Germain take on the FC Barcelona at Parc des Princes, leaving Barça to trail by 4, without having conceded a single goal at home.
With that loss in mind, for me, 15th February wasn’t an easy day to face. Leave it to the vexatious bunch of non-culé football fields I call friends, to make things worse.
We had lost the first leg of the round of 16 in UEFA Champions League and needed a miracle of a comeback to advance.
And sweet footballing gods, what a miracle awaited us.
I remember as clear as day, at 15 past midnight on 9th March 2017 (8th March, 20:45 CET) began the best match of football I have witnessed as a fan.
As the ref blew the whistle for the game to begin, the internet blew the whistle on my broken phone and me. The bandwidth was low, as were my hopes for the night. Three minutes into trying to find just the right position to coax the wifi and switching off all other devices, I heard in the voice of a Spanish commentator:
“Gooooolaaaaazoooooo- ¡que increíble golazo de Suarez!”
The broken screen on my phone showed an elated Suarez stuck mid-sprint in celebration. My internet was gone again. I was alone in my hostel room on a weekday, watching what would be an unforgettable match of my life as the rest of the hostel was burning the midnight oil (and with it, the shared wifi) for the approaching exams.
Yet, Suarez’s header had instilled some hopes in me, for the internet and the match. And just like that, suddenly, the internet was back. Little did I know that was just the beginning of the miracles to happen that night.
The first half of the game ensued with some more bandwidth fluctuations, regular match-time heartbeat patterns and another goal for us, taking the aggregate to 2-4.
I decided to spend the half-time carefully assessing the positions to optimize the wifi connectivity to my phone. It wasn’t the laundry-chair, neither was it right next to the router (or even on top of it, for that matter). Finally, the stairs outside my room proved to be a position just as Iniesta in the midfield. Perfect.
The second half penalty by Messi ensured a rising hope in millions of cules over the world, as did it in me.
62nd minutes in, struck the devastating goal Cavani beautifully executed for PSG, and suddenly, we were trailing by 2, with an away goal advantage to them. It was as if my broken phone could sense it (Alright, I had just forgotten to charge it), but it showed drained energy, I remember saying “Same, bro, same” to my phone as I went back into the room to put it on charge and the commentator continued showering Cavani in praises (this time in English) for the goal that had quite possibly won them a seat to the Quarters.
Terrible internet, a low point in the match or a headache from looking at the broken screen, I don’t know what persuaded me to turn off the live stream and grieve.
But it wasn’t long before the culé in me took over and I was watching the match again. At the 75th minute seeing Messi, truly at his finest, make an attempt rekindled some hopes in me. And then Neymar with a beautiful, beautiful freekick and a penalty that followed in the 90th minute, put us back on track. We had leveled the aggregate. It wasn’t too bad. Even if we had lost, what a beautiful game.
Then something happened. There was some tension, extremely warranted for, given the situation, and the next thing I see is a huge chunk of blue and red, stuck on my screen. My internet had betrayed me, yet again. I knew something big had happened. I just didn’t realise HOW BIG.
Cursing the internet, I rewinded the stream and saw it. And it was beautiful.
I heard the commentator saying, feebly at first, and then, at the top of his voice:
“It’s Neymar trying to feed it through— it’s a stretch– AND IT’S IN!”
“I can’t remember the last time I saw something like this.”
Again, “Same, bro, same”, I said.
The commentator continued his shouts on the screen: “Extraordinary things at the Nou Camp! Sergi Roberto, the substitute is the hero of the hour!”
“And it is the greatest Champions League knockout comeback of all time.”
And boy, was he right!
The story of how ‘La Remontada’ (literally: ‘the comeback’) became the second most famous Spanish words after “Hasta la vista”.
WHAT. A. GAME. I’m sure even to an objective set of eyes, it must have been an incredible spectacle but for a fanatic like me who prefers greeting a fellow culé with a “Força Barça” instead of a ‘hello’, it was everything.
Barcelona had compensated for every single snide remark the fans were made to listen to since Valentine’s Day that year. The beauty of the tiki-taka and the charm of the home ground.
That moment right there at Camp Nou, it was perfect. And it comes as no surprise that the very celebration caused a tremor strong enough to be registered on the Richter scale. That eruption of emotion mandated it.
It’s in moments like these, that one truly understands the emotion behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s “Football, bloody hell!” Camp Nou might not be the Theatre of Dreams, but it surely is a field of hopes, as proved on that day.
Looking back, attempting to disassociate myself from the ardour, I try to appreciate the simplicity of the match. It was the ever so same Barça principles, with a touch of incredible Iniesta and some good old Messi magic.
That Barcelona way.
Take the ball, pass the ball.