There was real footballing beauty in the way that Barçelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League Final last night. But of greater value in my eyes were what Barça stand for, their ethos, values and their beliefs. Because that is what makes them such a powerful team.
- They are owned by their supporters, not some wildly rich individuals endulging a personal passion or seeking the maximisation of profits.
- They don’t have sponsorship deals, choosing to promote UNICEF on their shirts instead of the best paying mobile phone company/airline/online-betting site.
- 5 of the 11 players starting last night were born within 30 miles of Barçelona.
- Their youth academy feeds a regular supply of great talent.
- They see themselves as Catalan before Spanish.
- In short: they know who and what they are and represent.
In contrast, multi-national teams in the English Premier League, don’t see themselves in the same way. Their sense of belonging doesn’t appear to be there, they don’t play for their team, more for their own wallets. And of course many have travelled over several continents to seek that financial return.
And the comparisons are not confined to football: in rugby Munster embody all that Barça do in their understanding of their roots. They have their own style and their own homegrown players and for many years have been one of the stand out teams in European rugby. Contrast that with the Ospreys in Swansea, who can field an international back row from the southern hemishpere that even denies a starting line up for members of the national team, demonstrating beyond doubt that they have no affinity with their roots or their country. Yet they continue to under-perform and under-deliver.
Teamwork and spirit will always rise above individualism and long may that be. Last night Barça showed that teamwork can really be a thing of beauty.