|photo by Kevin||via PhotoRee|
My name is Correspondent Scott and I am a closet Real Madrid fan. It’s been 18 years, 7 months and 4 days since I first gulped the purple Kool-Aid.
I say a “closet” Real Madrid fan because, in contrast to my other team, Liverpool, which hasn’t won anything since shortly after Flock of Seagulls were on the radio, Real Madrid, except for a very recent drought, have accumulated an embarrassment of riches over the past two decades, and it’s a trite cliché to be a fan, so I avoid it in certain company. Unlike the hordes of bandwagon Manchester United fans, my team predilections are not predicated on being able to say that I am a fan of the champions (and no, I really don’t mean you, boss-man).
You see, I came about my fandom honestly. Living with a family in Madrid for two weeks in 1992, I was heavily swayed by their allegiance, but what sealed the deal was the first time I beheld the teenage Raul play so fearlessly and score seemingly at will. Living again in Madrid from 1995 to 1996 only reinforced my choice of Real over Atletico (although I have mucho respeto for the in-town rivals).
If my feelings for the former Liverpudlian, Fernando Torres, can be described as a man-crush (which they were in these pages), then I’m going to move back to Spain with a life-size poster of Raul, and start lobbying for same-sex marriage. Hell, I’ve even started looking up the Schalke 04 scores since he was put out to pasture there.
But enough explaining – after all, there was an instant Clasico played today. Unfortunately, I only caught the second half because, even with DVR, there are only so many games played at 3:30pm on a Wednesday that you can watch without having your cable shut off.
The beginning of the second half started with energy to spare as the Madridistas were relentless in their pressure and tackling. But, after the initial onslaught, it seemed Barcelona settled into their customary keep-away game such that, by midway through the second half, it seemed all Real Madrid were interested in was defending and then booting it up the field for Ronaldo or Di Maria to chase and not get; or chase, get, and then lose.
Watching the game with my seven-year-old son, Cole, I found myself repeatedly pointing out how Real should have passed out of the backfield instead of just booting it. Quite frankly, I found myself yearning for not only the end of regulation time, but also the end of extra time, so we could get to penalties and a chance at victory, because, the way we were playing, we weren’t going to be able to string together two passes in the offensive half of the field, let alone get a shot on goal. The only good thing happening was that, despite all the play up the middle and quick passes, the few shots Barcelona got on goal were acrobatically dealt with by Iker Casillas, utilizing every millimeter of his fingers.
Then, and I honestly can’t remember if it was shortly before or after Adebayor came on for Ozil (I usually take notes but really hadn’t planned to write about the game), the play became more balanced. Real got a few passes together – and found Ronaldo in space. The game became increasingly physical, with a few yellow cards shown and several more not shown. Spanish national teammates (because, really, this is practically an intrasquad game for Spain) began to push and shove, argue and gesture. Gerard Pique and Xabi Alonso escalated their exchange from cordial to irritated to “you’re no longer invited to my house for Semana Santa”. Some may disagree, but I thought the referee did an OK job of calling egregious fouls, yet at the same time letting the the players play through some scrappy times.
Next, during extra time, in a flurry of velocity with the ball at his feet and with a trailing vapor of hair gel, Ronaldo launched toward goal with such speed, skill and determination that my resolve was tested. You see, I have never cared much for the Diva. After all, he smirked and scored against my beloved Liverpool, while playing for Bandwagon United, and still dives faster than Greg Louganis with a weight belt.
Nevertheless, conflicting emotions soared to a crescendo that shattered my will when a brilliant combination play found Di Maria free on the left. When he stretched for the ball, and then managed a perfect cross met by Ronaldo’s head at the apex of his jump, the net rippled as the Madrid players swamped the Diva, and I found myself tumbling off (or was it on?) the wagon as I reached for that violet-hued, sugary concoction to shamefully slake my desire for a championship fix.
This is farlieonfootie for April 22.