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!

EU integration at work

     V.      

Who says that England and Wales don’t work well within a European Union structure? Clearly a Cardiff-based eleven would like to do a UKIP, and put a sharp spike into the idea of European unity in today’s match. However, Arsenal’s current place atop the Premier League suggests that a pan-European blend is managing to disturb the notorious hush of the Emirates Library in north London.

A definite Franco-German axis dominates the Arsenal landscape at present, with a more than adequate support from English, Welsh, Spanish, Polish, Belgian and Czech Republic counter-parts. However, as with most European institutions, the Arsenal style can tend towards the over-elaborate with an emphasis on style over substance. The onlookers are often left with a feeling that the never-ending ‘process’ fails to deliver any tangible ‘products’ to their liking.

Many of their opponents experience that UKIP-like feeling, that any encounter with a European Union structure only leaves you mesmerised by the maze of hoops and rings spun around you. This understandably gives rise to an increasing urge to kick something… Arsene’s Arse providing the most obvious target (if you can penetrate the quilted wall of its defence):

    

The big questions for today are: what will happen when the English of Wales outnumber the English of England; and the greater number of Welsh players could be on the English side? Who will need to become most demonised by UKIP when they open up their cheque books to Rumanians and Bulgarians during the January transfer window? How many smiles will Arsene Wenger crack open during this match (all betting agency sources and Ray Winstone are available naaarrw).

  

A 3.00pm kick-off on a Saturday afternoon is a bit disorienting for supporters who have had more Sunday kick-offs so far this season. But the home fans are not left waiting for too long before their historic appreciation of former player Aaron Ramsey is put to the test. He scores to put Arsenal 1-0 in the lead, and there is a rare moment in the football kingdom where a scoring opponent is applauded by the home fans. Are you smiling Mr Wenger? Perhaps this is what joy looks like:

 

Cardiff somehow hang on to a 1-0 deficit through to half-time, but more due to the visitors playing slightly below their own standards. The second half approaches with the home team needing some inspiration from somewhere.

City v Arsenal

A more evenly contested half ensues, but the clinical efficiency of the league leaders produces a further two goals for a fair winner but maybe a slightly flattering result. Purple Dragonbirds are out-gunned by Arsenal 0-3. European unity prevails and there is time for one particular face to crack open a smile:

      I have been Juno, and with a busy weekend I will give you my views on a Wales v Australia rugby match next time we meet.

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.