This is the introduction of an essay I wrote that would later become the piece published in Paste Magazine last month (which I’m quite proud of, by the way). It’s more or less a festschrift on the Pep Guardiola era of FC Barcelona.
While I was pitching the piece to editors, this section was called “artsy faff” that is “largely meaningless to anyone not intimately familiar with soccer, but is also so flowery that it becomes nearly impenetrable.” That’s actually useful criticism, but I like to use every part of the hog, even the parts left on the cutting room floor. I blame Brian Phillips.
Sportswriter Sid Lowe once asked Catalan midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who plays for Spain and F.C. Barcelona, how he deals with defenders. Xavi replied:
Think quickly, look for spaces. That’s what I do: look for spaces. All day. I’m always looking. All day, all day. [Xavi starts gesturing as if he is looking around, swinging his head]. Here? No. There? No. People who haven’t played don’t always realise how hard that is. Space, space, space. It’s like being on the PlayStation.
Xavi’s response seems obvious: passing the ball is fundamental to soccer. But it’s also the teleological apex for Xavi, the Barcelona team he captains, and the recently-ascendant tiki-taka style he champions. That’s what I do, he says — not only now, but always.