Monday, June 01, 2009

Rewarding the Faith

No I'm not talking about my religious beliefs. This is about a game of football that gave hope to romantics the world over. A game between two of the biggest clubs in Europe, at the biggest stage in club football, in one of the most historic cities in the world. A match-up between one of the greatest football managers the game has ever seen and a manager who had far exceeded expectations in his first season as manager of the club he proudly represented as a player for over a decade. A contest to decide the best football player in the world - Would it be the 24-year old Portuguese winger with the strength and pace that characterize modern footballers, or would it be the 21-year old Argentine phenom who needed growth hormones to even grow into what would be the smallest frame on the pitch in Rome? If only I could write well enough to put a really dramatic spin to it.

As it turned out, Manchester United came out with the intent of testing Barcelona's patched-up defense from the start. It took a lot of people by surprise as most of the pundits were expecting United to blunt Barcelona the way Hiddink's men so effectively did in the previous round. For a while, it seemed to have taken the Catalans by surprise too. But once Iniesta combined with Eto'o to catch United off-guard it seemed like someone had sucked the air out of United. Barcelona dominated the game thereafter and should have scored a few more before THAT moment...

There had been endless debate about who is the better footballer between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The former is the World and European Play of the Year and is always happy to be the centre of attention. He is big, strong, fast, has two good shooting feet. The latter has been touted as the next Maradona for quite a while but hasn't lived up to his reputation against the big boys from England. But this was his moment to shine.

Xavi sent in a cross and the little Argentinian found himself completely unmarked just outside the six-yard box. But the ball was slightly behind him and no one would have expected him to even get to the ball let alone get it on target. Instead, he contorted his body and somehow cushioned a header over Edwin Van der Sar. The man had given a fitting answer to all those who had doubted his ability, and in the process even surprised some of his own teammates. Puyol's reaction says it all. Josep Guardiola had promised his men would play beautiful football. He felt this was how football was meant to be played.

While my views might be biased by my passion for Barcelona, I couldn't help but draw a parallel between this win and life. A lot of us spend years looking for the ideal job, the ideal partner. We come across posers and pretenders who test our faith in what we truly believe and it's really difficult to keep believing in your actions being right. There are moments of weakness when you lose faith in yourself and do the exact opposite of what you stand for. But isn't it so much more rewarding when you realize your goal by following the path you've always believed in? That sense of having achieved something you've always been looking for, something you found elusive in this world of cynics masquearading around as realists?

I would like to come clean here and admit to having strayed from the values I thought were unshakeable. In the process I've hurt the people I've cared for the most. I've even lost one of them, maybe forever. And there is nothing I won't do to atone for my mistakes. But does this mean I'll undo the wrongs I've done, or get back the people I've lost? Probably not. But has this made me want to do whatever I can to be a better person? Absolutely.