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Barcelona Futbol!

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We get our new signing Dembele and he snaps a tendon in his quad. 105m signing has to wait 3 and half months before he's back. Neymar's departure has seemed to be a blessing in disguise as the team has responded with 5 wins with 5 games played. A solid start considering the potential holes, however, Valverde has done a solid effort of scheming around the faults. 

Messi has played all games and has 9 goals with 3 hat tricks 5 games into the season. Teams triple team him and he still gets it past the goalie repeatedly. Semedo the new addition on the right side has been a joy to watch fill space on the pitch and advance the ball on nearly every touch. He moves effortlessly with the ball. 

Messi is the greatest of all time and his points are expected but the biggest surprise has been Paulinho. 29 years of age and the captain of the Brazil team was spurned by much of the fan base as he had gone splashingly into the Chinese league. The Chinese league is seen as one where a player goes to spend their last days. Not Paulinho, he excelled and caught the eye of Barça. We threw 40 million at him this summer, which is a great deal for an aging middlefielder. He stepped in and has had assists and has scored in the last 2 games. He plays vertically for a midfielder, which is odd for Barcelona's attack or tik tak play, yet he's assimilated seamlessly into the game and has made things happen all over the field. 

Solid contributions by the entire made sure that we came away with a solid game and victory. 6-1 was the final score. Not bad until you realize that's the first points scored on Barça so far this season. Eibar spent 3 million in the offseason, a huge sum for such a Basque team, they were expecting a win, not to be routed. Valverde had the team prepared and they're not clicking smoothly on all fronts, but they're getting solid results with this messy play which will only tighten. 

Heal well and fast Dembele. 

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Dembele healed well and fast, then had a setback, then arrived to score in the Copa Del Rey and finally for the team a few weeks ago. His assists have helped Barça capitalize on an amazing run. I was going to post weekly here, however, I get it, no one really cares, this is a football site. So I saved my posts and decided I'll wait until we lose and surf the Barça site. I was not prepared for the onslaught of opinions from everywhere from every angle. Following the biggest team in the world came with the worlds pining. Overwhelmed is a nice place to start when searching for words to grasp where I was. There is just TOO much information and sources and opinions. Imagine SR, on steroids with over a million fans, ya, frightening. 

I realized I could not do what I do here, there. I gave up. I studied the history and found the Barça Reddit and found bits of sanity here and there. I followed and learned. I watched the offseason come and go after losing the league title in the last couple of games of the '16-'17 season. 3 points, we lost the league by 3 goals. We had only 4 losses all year and the only trophy we won was the Spanish Kings Trophy, The Copa Del Rey, successfully beating every team in the Spanish Tournament. 

I've come to enjoy soccer, I've come to love Barça futbol, I've witnessed already what has been considered the best soccer game ever played in the modern era. I have a new rival, Los Blancos, that feed my hatred the same that the Falcons feel in the fall. I've watched every game since my trip to Camp Nou and I've had quite a year of it. The LaLiga season is 38 games, then you add in Champions League. Champions League involves the top 4 teams in all the top worlds divisions. We made it to the semi finals up 3 goals in game one only to lose to Roma a few weeks ago. The goal of each season is what is called the Treble or 3 or to win the 3 continental trophies available to win. To win all 3 in a single is the goal that has been attained by very few over the decades. Champions League, Copa Del Rey, and the League Title make up the Treble available to Barcelona if they stay within the top 4 teams in the league by cumulative wins and points. FC Barcelona is the only team in the world to have done it twice. Losing the game in Rome meant that the Treble was impossible this year. 

This year the Copa Del Rey tournament was spectacular, we only lost one game. Soccer tournaments are two games each round, same as in Champions Leagues, one at your home stadium and one game at your opponent's stadium. The cumulative score of the two games decides the winner if it's a tie, the team that scores the more points in the away game gets the nod moving their team forward.  We lost that game 1-0 but we came back the second game with 2 goals to their none. Last weekend we hoisted the Kings Trophy after a decisive 5-0 victory. 

Today Barcelona won its LaLiga game 4-2. 41, 41 games, 41 games without a loss. How can you have won 41 games in a row in a 38 game season you may ask? We won the last 7 of the '16-'17 season then proceeded to not lose a game ALL SEASON! We sit 15 goals ahead of our rivals who beat us last year by 3, with 4 games to go in the LaLiga season. Next week we play those same rivals, Real Madrid. This game matters, it's our rivals, yet there is an air of satisfaction beforehand. With that 34th game today we officially won the LaLiga title. The win and points are squarely in our favor and today we hoisted our second trophy in two weeks. 

We have officially won the double, we've only done that 9 times since 1899. What our coach Valverde has accomplished is pretty amazing given the state of affairs that Barcelona found itself in last July. The previous coach was fired, our promising young talent left unexpectedly for another league for the most money ever and the team looked destined for a bad year. I strapped in and as a fan hoped for the best whilst expecting the worst. My fandom was rewarded with a most spectacular display weekend after weekend.

One game selected by random choice changed the way I viewed soccer and turned out to be an epic game I'll never witness again. I'm officially hooked, I'm a Cules, I fly my Barça colors as proud as I do my Black and Gold. With 4 games to go, I can only hope we pull off the perfect undefeated season. I've probably doomed it by finally writing about it but I had to purge these thoughts after our official Double win today. I don't follow the usual sports besides football and cycling and now futbol is officially part of my permanent sports world. It ain't for everybody, but it's definitely for me.

This summer it was announced that Barcelona will do another US tour and this time they're coming to the west coast. August 4th I'll be behind one of the goals with my Penya (officially recognized fan club of FC Barcelona) at Levis Stadium. Pretty much the only way you'll get me in that stadium. I have no desire to attend another live 49er game locally again. 

Força Barça!

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The game was great, fun time, great atmosphere. Opposition outnumbered 100 to 1 in the stands. It was a friendly competitive game with all the youth players and the new signings. We ended up losing 1-0 in extra time, but no one cared, it was nice to see the team and hang out with our Penya. We were all behind the goal which was a nice view of the whole thing. We have a youth movement and one that is extremely bright. These kids start at La Masia, the Barça school, at the young age of 10 or so and they come up thru the ranks over the years and work their way up to the first team. It's an incredible fielding system that teaches those with the exceptional talent how to harness their gifts and what their strengths and truest positions are. This academy is very difficult and it takes great mental fortitude as well as great talent to rise to the upper echelons. Our 4 team captains, came up thru this training and combined have over 80 years of playing experience. They are taught how to do the smallest things to perfection and it shows on the pitch and the quality is on the field year in and year out. It's a farm system that is the envy of all sports and for a good reason, it's not cheap, but they also have scouts all over Europe hunting special talent always and for decades. 

A tiny young player was scouted when he was 11 to 12, he arrived on the soccer scene and was deemed too small. He had a growth issue, he wasn't growing. This small child turned into a ruthless whirlwind dynamo when he stepped on the field and was placing ball after ball into the net no matter who ran in front of him or how many. Not only that, this kid would only move or do anything with the ball, with his left foot, only. This minuscule kid was an enigma wrapped in a sweater who always got pushed off the ball due to his size. Barça saw this kid and his talent and they brought him into La Masia. He had all of the skillsets needed to play, the only issue was his size. They weren't sure what to do wit him. Their doctors did many tests on him and in the end, he was diagnosed with a hormone deficiency. Those hormones are expensive and especially to a poor family from South America. Barcelona took a chance on this kid and made the decision to pay for his care as well as move his family to Spain to be with their son. It took time but the medicine worked, the coaching worked, this kid raised quickly thru the ranks. Barça took a flier on this kid with immense talent and in turn that little Argentinian took his opportunity and he, in turn, changed the game of soccer forever. That little kids name is none other than, Lionel Messi, considered one of the greatest players to ever lace up. The greatest former players alive today, from Pelé, Maradona, Zidane, and others when asked who's the greatest in the game and they will tell you without blinking or even a second thought and the one word that they always combine off their lips respectfully and with authority, "Messi!" I've seen him play before my very eyes at Camp Nou and he is a magician with the ball from how he passes to how he scores and he scores a lot. He is the most prolific scorer in the game and he's not even a true forward. 

Barça has opened up academies around the US and they are now out there scouting, hunting, searching for the US's equivalent of Messi. The game of the NFL is on the decline to the point I read the other day that entire districts are starting to shut down due to lack of players and parents and kids aware and thus afraid of the consequences. FCB has been establishing camps all over the country in the anticipation of the growth of this sport but also because of the availability of a new country to scout fresh talent. Right now a US player is playing for Paris Saint Germain and scored the other day. He is expected to not be an anomaly in coming years and I credit the big teams with reaching out and finally coming to the US. He is rare, he's also the son of a great player from Europe who moved to the US and raised his son here. Still, it gives me hope for future generations. 

With all that said, I'm not a fan of the US teams. After following and watching soccer in Europe, needless to say, the US game is amateur at best and the equivalent of watching high school football. It's entertaining but the product consistency is lacking at best and can't keep your attention unless you know someone on the field. Yea, remember the XFL, yea not even that good. But ATN EU players are now coming into the US game? True, however, they are way past their prime, yet go look at the video of Rooney's 92' min heroics from stealing a runaway ball from a baller on the move to then pivoting to punt the ball 70+ yards on a dime for a header to win the game. Yes, that's exciting, but not worth the other 91' min in my opinion. US players do not have the fundamentals most of these EU players have because they haven't been trained by academies of specialists at young ages. It makes a considerable difference when you have an ex-player who has mastered the game teaching passing fundamentals as opposed to Uncle Al who watched a tape and played some soccer in high school?!? The product is night and day and so is the pay scale. 

This week Barça had 2 games, this week Barça came away with 2 trophies and the season officially starts this weekend for LaLiga. It's a pretty exciting time and the fan base is pretty excited about this year. Last year Barca faced much turmoil due to the loss of superstar Neymar and a new coach. Barçq only lost 1 regular season game and just missed out on the perfect season by one goal. They lost the Champions league by losing in the quarterfinals yet they won the Copa Del Rey (Spanish Cup) and LaLiga Title, also known as a Duo. Not a bad year at all last year, yet we cut loose multiple bench players and sold them for just below our signing of 4 young talented players. These guys have the Barça DNA, as they say, which means they've mastered their positions at their levels and need to play at the highest levels to hone their skills and refine them at the world class level. They have worked thru their years training at the lower levels rising thru the ranks respectively. Thru those years of watching the masters of the gameplay, to finally earning their chops and mastering them enough to have earned the right to step onto the pitch and play alongside them. Those new players each contributed directly to the team already with the 2 trophies they've hoisted over the past week thus building on their resumes and their confidences. 

The goal is to win every trophy before us, we have assembled the squad that has the talent to do just that. Whether they will do all that is going to be seen over the coming year. Soccer is a long season with tournaments sprinkled in and depending on how well you do in all depends on how your season shakes out. So as the year goes on the pressure amps up and we have a solid A and B team to handle what's ahead. We have a solid mix of youth and seasoned veterans to field an experienced ball controlling team no matter who we face throughout the season. We have had a nonturbulent offseason and a year of solid stability and solid winning behind our current coach so we as a fan base are expecting big results. Our competition didn't rest on their laurels and each team did their best to arrive at a starting 11 that will compete for the league title. It will be interesting to see those teams that have risen into the division and always interesting to see who falls out at seasons end. Lots of drama and games ahead, we just hope to avoid the injury bugs. Let the season begin!

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