To call me a “fan” would be an understatement. I’m like a football’s annoyingly creepy stalker. Like someone obsessed and die-hard, never missing any day without watching highlight videos or just taking a few minutes scrolling on football memes spread all around social media. But okay, fine. For the sake of a more prudent and convenient way of communicating, I’ll just call myself a “fan” just for today.
My heart broke last February 14. It’s not that didn’t have a date for Valentine’s day. Well, okay. I can probably give you that as a secondary reason to be heartbroken on Valentines Day. But it’s primarily because my team lost big time in the first leg of the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League. Last Valentines Day, Paris Saint Germain (PSG) trounced my beloved FC Barcelona (FCB) at a score of 4-0.
If you’re not familiar with the format of the UEFA Champions League tournament, I will try my best to explain. In the tournament’s Round of 16, Quarter Finals, and Semifinals, the teams play 2 legs and the aggregate score of those will be the final score. For example, PSG defeated FCB at 4-0. It means that for FCB to advance to the next round, they should score 5-0 to make an aggregate score of 5-4. “Away goals” are also given importance. These are the high-yielding goals that the visiting team scores at their opponent’s home pitch. In the February 14 match, FCB wasn’t able to score a single away goal at PSG’s fortress. But if only we were able to score one to make it 4-1 that time, FCB would only need to tie the aggregate score to 4-4 to move to the next round because of the 1 away goal advantage. Since it’s 4-0, FCB needed at least 4-0 at home and prevent PSG from scoring an away goal to tie the aggregate and force extra time and penalty shootout if necessary, or 5-0 to knock PSG outright.
The second leg of the Round of 16 was played last March 9. Every Barça fan was hopeful though a comeback was deemed impossible by most experts and sports analysts. No other team in history has ever made a comeback from a 4-goal deficit in the Champions League. Let me remind you. This is the Champions League, where champions of different leagues from different European countries clash to take home the big silver cup. It means that every opponent is a tough contender. That includes Paris Saint Germain, the French champions.
The match started at Barcelona’s home ground. With a defending mistake from PSG, they allowed Suarez (FCB) to score a header from inside the penalty box making it 1-0 (agg. 1-4)for Barcelona as early as the 3rd minute. An own-goal from Kurzawa (PSG) forced by Iniesta (FCB) made it 2-0 (agg. 2-4) thirty-seven minutes after. After half-time, a penalty was awarded to FCB after Neymar (FCB) was fouled inside the box. Messi (FCB) took the shot and puts Barca to 3-0 (agg. 3-4), a goal away from to equalize the aggregate score. However, at the 62nd minute, Cavani (PSG) scores a thundering strike for Paris, making it 3-1. All hopes died for Barcelona. The aggregate score is now 3-5, with an away goal advantage for PSG. It means that FCB can only win this by making the aggregate score 6-5. Three goals in 28 minutes. Impossible.
The match continued. Barcelona struggled to put the ball in in the next few minutes. On the 85th minute, the clock was ticking to the dying minutes of the game. Neymar was fouled near the corner of the penalty box. He took the free kick and puts it in making it 4-1 (agg. 4-5). A few minutes later, Suarez was fouled inside the box and Barcelona was awarded another penalty. Neymar took the kick and made it 5-1 (agg. 5-5), still in favor of PSG due to an away goal advantage. On the 95th minute Ter Stegen was fouled near mid line, providing FCB a free kick which was taken by Neymar. Neymar then sent an overhead through pass from to the inside box which was received by Sergi Roberto’s right foot volleying FCB’s 6th goal at the back of the net, making it 6-1 (agg. 6-5). There was no time left for PSG to redeem themselves. The referee whistled, signaling everyone of the end of the match. Camp Nou exploded with cheers, chants, and amazement from its 94,000 spectators. FC Barcelona just made history.
For most, football is just a game. But for many die-hard fans like me, it’s more than a beautiful game. It’s a sport that speaks to everyone of us. What I witnessed that night was spectacular and truly one of a kind. I’ve been a fan of football for quite some years now but I have never seen such stellar historical night unveil in front of my eyes. That’s why I have collected photos and quotations from the players which struck me.
And Neymar’s was my favorite. “Enquanto houver 1% de chance, teremos 99% fé.” (“As long as there’s 1% chance, then we will have 99% faith.”)
Congratulations, Barcelona. We have defied statistics. We have defied history. We have made the impossible POSSIBLE. Visca Barca!
Que Deus nos bendigo y nos proteja!
No dueño estas fotos. El crédito va al dueño/s.
I do not own any of the photos. Credit goes to the owner/s.