If ever there was an argument for televised sport, Wednesday night was it. In 90 minutes of sensational drama viewers experienced the entire gamut of human emotion. If you were a classical playwright, you’d be happy with that one. It would be sure to rate with the greats of Aristotle, Shakespeare and Racine: The Ten Gentlemen of Barcelona, if you like. Rare is the time you get to experience such shifts between happiness, fear, despair, elation, suspense and resolution in such a short space of time, unless you’re baking a cheesecake in a bain marie.
Frankly this was more than an emotional rollercoaster: in my experience people on rollercoasters scream a bit, and then get off; this was more elaborate than that. This was enjoyment tempered with the fear that it could all be over in a flash. Like eating a yoghurt that’s been in the fridge well past its sell-by date: delicious, but potentially deadly. It was an emotional petit filou.
But man, what a filou! Deflation (first goal), Anger (red card), Resignation (second goal), Euphoria (THAT chip), and that’s just in ten minutes. We still have a missed penalty, the clatterings of the woodwork, the offside goal, the yellow cards, and, obviously, the Torres redemption.
Simultaneously, of course, we have the Terry situation. As Chelsea fans do we blindly support our captain in gratitude for the work he’s put in over the years, or do we savagely turn on him, as the rest of the country has? Frankly I don’t care what he does off the pitch, extra-marital, intra-racial or whatever, I’m not pretending he’s my chum. It’s what he does on the pitch that we support, and unfortunately there is no sensible explanation for what he did on the pitch. If he’d been 21 and impetuous, we could have forgiven him his selfish irrationality, his immaturity. But he’s 31, he’s the captain and anyway, what was he hoping to achieve? An injury? A spot of intimidation? Where did he think he was? Chicken Cottage on a Saturday night? I don’t think we can forgive it; we can try to ignore it, but whatever happens next, he’s permanently blotted his record with that one. On the plus side, at least he won’t be around to miss a penalty in the final.
The rest of the gang are straight-up heroes. I can’t really remember the second half, partly because my beer intake accelerated, partly because I flinched until each new Barca attack was hoofed clear or shot wide, and partly because the Southern Cross got so raucous it was difficult to tell what was going on.
And then with about three minutes remaining, I dared to let myself believe. How many attacks can you mount in three minutes? One? Two? Cech’s already on a yellow, so he can’t slow it down. And those damned ball boys are like lightning. Three with injury time? Three attacks to survive. It’s doable. It can be done. Ignore everything that’s gone before and just survive three more attacks. But this is Barcelona, and they’ve done this to us before, they’ve let us believe and then snatched it at the death. Damn their accurate passing and tiptoeing around the box. No free kicks, don’t even think of tackling anyone in the area.
And then, boom.
The hoofed clearance.
The first touch.
The realisation that you can’t be offside in your own half.
The keeper comes out.
The billowing net.
The beer in the air.
The deafening roar.
The tidal wave.
Of emotional petit filou.