Soccer / Barcelona's Fancy Footwork Stumbles Against Real Madrid

Real Madrid taught Barcelona an important lesson on Tuesday: In soccer, offense is the best offense.

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In the promotion clip for Tuesday night's match-up between Barcelona and Real Madrid, Eyal Golan stands in front of a microphone and mimics in a rather unexcited tone, a Spanish soccer commentator: "Xavi, Xavi, Iniesta, Iniesta, Iniesta, Xavi, Messi – goal".

The repetition of the players' names is a verbal jab at the Catalonian club's on-field strategy: "tiki-taka," which is the frequent back-and-forth passing of the ball between players, a tactic that turns offense into defense and basically slows the game down into one big bore.

Golan's unenthusiastic tone was supposed to amuse us, slaves of the Barcelona "enterprise," and it succeeded. But it also revealed the unspoken truth: Despite being sold as sexy, Barcelona's soccer is impossibly boring. The sex appeal is just a marketing ploy, run brilliantly and systematically by the indoctrination of radical Barcelonaism.

Barcelona is equated with tiki-taka, and tiki-taka sure sounds fun. I mean, it rolls easily off the tongue, is as short as Xavi's prickly hair, as sweet as Messi's nose and is jumpy like Iniesta's thigh muscles.  But tiki-taka is actually a defensive strategy, like "parking the bus," (meaning, camping out at the goal), except that it's carried out 30 meters from the rival's goal, instead of on the other side of the field in front of your own. It gives the illusion of an attack but then nothing happens.

Another pass, Xavi again, Iniesta again, now Xavi, Messi, goal. Or not. Maybe not so fun after all.

Just like the old "parking the bus" tactic, tiki-taka sanctifies defense as the ultimate objective, even though it's disguised as having offensive aims. Under the rules of tiki-taka, launching a long ball that might or might not reach its destiny is strictly forbidden.  An attack lasting less than 60 passes is considered a malfunction. A back heel, defying conventional thinking, is an insult.

Tiki-taka is, in reality, treason of the game's aesthetics – not a creative solution but a castrating fixation, the obsession of possession. Taken to the limit, the most extreme tiki-taka thinkers would refuse to score, for the simple reason that after the goal, the rivals would have possession of the ball when they renew the game from midfield.

But Real Madrid gave Barcelona a master class on Tuesday. For the second time in a week, the tika-taka devotees simply couldn't find a way to get back into the game. The tactic simply isn't programmed to reach a scoring situation within five passes.

So, soccer won this time. One wonders if this will change the promotion clip for the next match-up on Saturday.

Leo Messi wasn't celebrating his team's loss to Real Madrid on Tuesday, where Barcelona's 'tiki-taka' strategy couldn't catch up.Credit: Reuters

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