People often ask me as a poet and a fiction writer why I decided to write about world football. I tell them itâ€™s because of clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United; the very clubs that bring ultimate beauty to the game and clubs that know how to win.
With their contrastive style of play, if these two teams were music, watching Barcelona is akin to listening to a Spanish symphony. Seeing Manchester United play is like listening to bad boy rock stars belt out number one hits. Both are equally appealing in different ways.
Through the years Iâ€™ve seen these two teams go to the top and stay there. But lately, somethingâ€™s gone amiss.
Credit Manchester City, credit Real Madrid for their competitorsâ€™ fallâ€”although Real Madrid has copped a larger spotlight than Manchester City in the pastâ€”but also delving into the two clubs themselvesâ€”the pressure to be perfect must be exhausting.
And why when a team suffers a defeat, or in one recent case, a landslide, do they act so surprised? Do some clubs believe they are infallible? The answer must be yes.
When on 23 October Manchester United suffered a shocking defeat by Manchester City (6 - 1) I found something terribly wrong with the headline. Why shocking? Canâ€™t anyone regard a spectacular win a spectacular win without it being shocking?
Pundits and fans alike tend to attribute red cards and faulty lineups to a loss, devaluing an opponentâ€™s star-studded-side.
â€”and what about Manchester Unitedâ€™s La Liga double Barcelona?
The use of terms â€śshockâ€ť and â€śsurpriseâ€ť attributed to the victories of lesser ranked teams should not obliterate their meritorious performances.
In the light in which Manchester United and Barcelona are seen, itâ€™s a wonder any other football club exists at all. On the one hand, I am proud to say I support them, along with any other team that hits the top four, on the other hand, I am embarrassed when I boast about my admiration for the big shots in the presence of diehard fans of relegation and bottom ten teams.
These are true football lovers through and through. The ones born and bred in small English cities and small Spanish towns.
I consider those raised in Manchester and Barcelona lucky to have grown up in big league neighborhoods, because they can never be accused of fair-weather fanaticism.
But I suspect that the emphasis placed on winning is more than just being the best. How many coaches were sacked because their team failed to collect silverware?
Although it is still early days of the 2011-2012 season, Manchester United and Barcelona are continually put to the test. By mid-season the photograph should be more in focusâ€”and amid transfer rumors and controversies, we can look forward to watching that snapshot develop.