Old & New: Barcelona Style

“They don’t make them like they used to!” Of course not… it was a different time, different priorities, with less of the corporately bland requirements to have it done by yesterday. Oh, and health and safety hadn’t yet been invented.

But nobody told Gaudi and the Barcelona authorities that you can’t make them like you used to!

Take a stroll around the atmospheric Gothic Quarter and Barcelona Cathedral presents a dramatic example of what the 13th to 15th centuries had to offer the religiously inclined…

Then, if you’ve not had enough of the reflective devotion imposed by the incredible grandeur of such ecclesiastical trappings, take a further stroll (or few stops by Metro) to check out what the 19th to 21st centuries have to offer, c/o Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia

Until we meet again, whether it is then or now… WOW!

Premier League unplugged [16]

Perhaps being at the Cardiff City Stadium is a bit like watching Barcelona these days…

Until we speak again, it certainly was like watching Barcelona, as the final score was Cardiff City 2 West Ham United 0! Oh, and just for the record Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano

Battle of the basement

My resident ‘exaggerator general‘ is talking up the enormity of today’s encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium, but I can barely raise a paw from my eyes at the prospect of the Battle of the Basement, as the Premier League’s two worst teams go head-to-head in the rush to relegation. With the two worst defensive records, and two of the worst scoring records I await nothing short of a comedy of errors to be reported back to me after the match from the ‘gullible one‘, who has even gone as far as to renew a season ticket. I am secretly trying not to offer congratulations for grabbing a bargain, as relegation means 4 extra games for the same price… I must keep remembering it is so easy to mock the afflicted!

I hear they are extending the capacity of the stadium, yet one glimpse into my food bowl of fortune tells me that the crowds will be hard to come by…

If you are into gambling I suggest you should have more confidence in a four-month long Welsh heatwave starting today, with record temperatures in the upper 30 degrees, than the arrival of Fulham FC sparking any heat into this encounter. Even with their tradition of the comedian Tommy Trinder being a life long fan (and former club Chairman) there is nothing in their recent history to suggest Fulham are going to raise the spirits…

  One look at their line-up of managers so far this season does little to tempt me to roll over for a tummy tickle! I thought I heared something on the radio about ‘Felix the Cat’ being this week’s manager at Fulham Football Club, but my ‘fount of all things unnecessary‘ tells me it is a German guy called Felix Magath. Oh well, football is a strange game, so I am told. But, whoever came up with that one hasn’t watched cricket, I say!

City v Fulham [1]

It’s 3.00p.m. on a sunny Saturday at the Cardiff City Stadium, with all the home fans desperately hoping some of those rays inspire a long lost performance out of their team. Get strapped in, this could be a roller-coaster of a yawn; 90 minutes can be a long time when you are stuck in a seat watching loads of blades of grass grow.

Much running and sliding, and general kicking about goes on for 45 minutes. As expected of the two teams propping up all of the others, little resembling a chance of goal scoring is happening. 0-0 as the half-time whistle approaches, but one further minute of added time comes up on the stadium big screens. Many of the home fans are wondering what a goal is… it is reaching a point where they begin to claim to have heard about them but not seen their team score one for so long… “days of the dinosaurs” may even get muttered in the same sentance as the last Cardiff City goal. But then, with the last kick of the half (and many fans already queueing for their exorbitantly priced tat passing as refreshment beneath the stands) up steps Captain Caulker to slot home from a few yards out. The mystery of the Cardiff City Stadium goal is banished as the home team go off the pitch to the applause of their fans… Cardiff City 1 Fulham 0. A cat’s eye view of the goal (with thanks to Mail Online):

Back of the net: Caulker broke the deadlock for Cardiff in first-half injury time

Dare the locals dream… the second half is about to kick-off in this game where it is widely acknowledged that the loser is likely to be doomed to relegation.

City v Fulham [2]

The half begins with more of the same fare experienced for most of the earlier 45 minutes. Not exactly igniting the passions, and then the inevitable happens as the home team go on the retreat, against the demands of some of their baying fans, and Fulham score to level the match at 1-1. Deep from the inevitable footballing cliche machine comes the murmuring of the stadium sages… “a draw helps neither team”. But, uncharacteristically for this field of dreams, a 12 minute spell of productive activity ensues, and with the help of Captain Caulker again, and a comedy of errors in the Fulham defence, Cardiff City find themselves in uncharted Premier League waters at 3-1 to the good.

Anything could now be possible in the weirdly distorted mind of my ‘biased reporter‘; “don’t be so stupid, this is Cardiff City, not Barcelona” I suggest. And, with a cat’s level of footballing knowledge, I take a bow for my superiority in all matters. Whatever the fans shout, this is Cardiff in the Premier League, and they just can’t help themselves… they have this strange habit of running backwards, making even poor or mediocre teams like Fulham (or Sunderland, Norwich, and West Bromwich Albion) to temporarily look good! This is clearly a team that defy all logic. If playing an attacking style pressing forward puts you into a 3-1 lead, what genius has told them that they should now all run backwards and play just back in their own half? You don’t need a degree in mathematics or statistics to read the league table and see this is a team who manifestly fail at trying to defend a lead.

Mesmerising, majestic, out-of-this-world, scintillating… these are all words overly used in football descriptions, but today you will have to be somewhere else to find them. However short on superlatives, those rays of sunshine do manage to bathe the home crowd with something more than just luck… for today they are playing Fulham, a team even more inept at putting the ball in the back of the net than the home team. The final whistle arrives to bring the curtain down on a score to lift Welsh hearts… Cardiff City Bluebirds 3 Fulham Lame Ducks 1.

I guess I will have to listen to ‘exaggerator general‘ pontificating about hope, and a bright new horizon, while I resist the temptation to spike the balloon with a reality check. If Felix the Cat is still in a job next season, in a club that have taken the term ‘Manager of the Month‘ to a newly ridiculous level, will he be seen in these parts again? Until we speak again I am going to be a sun-seeking Juno, trying to avoid casting around the dark clouds that still engulf a team saddled with a clueless owner…

… with an over developed sense of self-importance.

[Most of the images are borrowed from Google images to illustrate the story, with thanks to those who posted them originally].

The Ugly Beautiful Game

The ‘lovely ugly town’ (Dylan Thomas) that grew up into a ‘pretty shitty city’ (Dougray Scott’s character in the film ‘Twin Town’) encounters a hostile reception from their neighbours in the capital of culture, beauty and refinement. The first ever South Wales Premier League derby sees the battle of the rivers Taff v. Tawe… what is it about so many of these football teams trying to tantalise my taste buds by adopting different kinds of birds as their emblems? Today the Bluebirds v. The Swans are getting ready to tear each other apart, as that rare moment emerges when something so loved by so many becomes tainted by a sinister back-drop of hatred for fellow supporters:

       V.        

We are all set for 90 minutes of the beautiful game to be played out in front of 27,000 magnificently mindless people who don’t quite get how world-definingly meaningless this event is to all but the supporters of each club. For many of those present the events on the pitch will take a mere secondary role of stoking up the vehemence felt by one tribe to another. The fact that both tribes share a nation’s pride seems superfluous, as whatever brain cells are possessed have surely been left firmly locked away at home.

Meanwhile, there are rather unusual pre-match preparations… for such a big match as this the away team squad have adopted a different pre-match warm-up, as they forgo the usual coach journey to the ground and have been spotted sneaking in via the local waterways:

Swan armada [1]

For the ugly folk wishing unmentionable pains on their rivals the game is supposed to be more important than matters of life and death (Bill Shankly), but in reality it is only 22 rich kids falling over while kicking each other, and kicking the modern day equivalent of a pigs bladder around an incredibly well manicured patch of grass. Despite tales of money, the beautiful side of the game has been widely attributed to these elegant swans through many plaudits from pundits and fans alike (but not from the snarling variety of fans found in these parts). If you are looking for the ugly side of the game, look no further than the so-called gentility of the bluebirds… not only do they have an owner so far out of touch with the reality of local passions, but they now have their very own El Pitbull aka Gary Medel.

But hang on, isn’t this billed as the South Wales derby? By my reckoning we are about to witness ‘The Rest of the World v Spain’ as the line-up of players is being announced. There could be as much as one local person on each side as the Cardiff team is represented by at least Scotland, England, France, Chile, Iceland and South Korea. As for Swansea they manage to parade more Spanish players than Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Games like these need careful preparation, and some of the away fans are spotted visiting one of my local hostelries before the match; they are probably debating what to eat and drink in the absence of any paella and rioja:

Swans at lunch

Strange rituals emerge on the pitch as the Swansea white huddle are asking each other why the crowd seems so hostile towards players of the beautiful game. Meanwhile the Cardiff red and black huddle debate the forthcoming duck-shoot, with swans substituted for the ducks.

Cardiff City v Swansea City [2]

But now it is 4.00p.m. Sunday 3rd November 2013, and the derby will never be the same again. This is a match that is being televised around the globe… Sky had better turn the crowd microphones down unless they wish to shock the delicate and faint-hearted. The question on everyone’s lips is ‘Who will be the first player to make the meaningless kissing of the badge gesture?’ It used to be a representation of the passion for their club, but now means a thank you to the club that is temporarily paying shed-loads of cash into their bank account until the next transfer… but who am I, a mere cat, to cast such cynicism on this working man’s sport that provides a platform for a young man to become a billionaire before he can count much past ten?

Half-time shows up without seeing the arrival of either the ugly or the beautiful, but there is encouraging signs for the home fans that El Pitbull is much more of an El Duracell, with no signs of the reputation that got him sent off 7 times in 80 games in Spain. Time to prey to the God of Cliches for a game of two halves…

Cardiff City v Swansea City [4]

 

It’s the second half, and cometh the hour cometh the game… a capital corker from CAPTAIN CAULKER signals the time for the home fans to go into paroxysms of ecstasy; after all football fans are nothing if not easily pleased by a goal for their team.

Steven Caulker towers above the Swansea defence to score the winner

The lively atmosphere throughout has now been injected with extra venom against the visiting fans in the corner of the ground. But, as 90 minutes pass and the fourth official exasperates the Cardiff crowd by awarding 5 extra minutes of stoppage time there is still a stage awaiting a drama… and up it steps in the 91st minute. Campbell the Cardiff striker is charging out wide of the goal as Vorm the Swansea goalkeeper scythes him to the ground (or at least brings him down without touching the ball). Is it yellow or is it red? On this occasion Cardiff fans have no doubt about the colour, it has to be a red card. The referee duly obliges and the Swansea goalkeeper has to walk. With no further substitutes left they have to nominate another player to be goalkeeper for the remaining few minutes. The tension ramps up, and the game gives die-hard fans of both sides something to argue about until the next derby.

The final whistle blows and the hype has fortunately remained unfulfilled. With a helicopter overhead, snarling police alsatians en masse in van-shaped cages, and a metal fence with thin blue line penning the away fans in, it is time for the home fans to disperse in the knowledge that Cardiff go above Swansea in the Premier League table. Some away fans might have been seen drowning their sorrows after the game in an unorthodox fashion:

Synchronised swanningFor the students of the stats it finished Purple Dragonbirds 1 Grey Swans 0.