Arsenal and Barcelona: A comedy of Errors

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By JAMES CURTIS Whether or not it’s you, we’ve all experienced those moments where somebody becomes the brunt of a joke. You try your best to see the funny side, and on most occasions that’s possible. Sometimes though, and not very often, those good times turn into uncomfortable moments when a person can’t help but feel insulted through oversensitivity. One tender spot where the Brit gets easily hung-up is football, so it’s no wonder a few of us are feeling a little sour about Cesc Fabregas publically being forced into a Barcelona shirt. 

The British have always found a way to satirise themselves and take in good spirits their own comic flaws. The British are good at being the brunt. Dad’s Army; classic comedy about the Home Guard during World War II, overly serious about their trivial role which never sees combat or confrontation. Derek Trotter; the Cockney market trader and star of Only Fools and Horses, bent on making cash and who thinks he’s sharper than actuality. The Vicar of Dibley reveals the meaning of the English countryside’s village idiot, while One Foot In The Grave tells the story of England’s grumpy senior citizenship. Perhaps being brought up with the world’s finest comedy helped me realise Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique and Pepe Reina lack the class.

I attempted to see the funny side. Also, Spain had just won the World Cup, so why should they care about what anybody else thinks? Half the team are Barcelona anyway. Put Puyol and Pique into British comedy and they’d come out as Edina and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous, driving people mad with their outrageous selfishness. This was their stage. Still though, the only people laughing are Barcelona fans and players. Their cackles grow louder every time they ruffle Arsenal, and their followers bask in its workings, gloating at how our prized asset wants to play for their club. Every time an angry comment becomes the property of the internet and appears on the monitor screen of a Barca fan, they laugh. If they are reading now then I suspect they’ll be laughing too! 

Arsenal were the real brunt of the joke, not Cesc. Before the World Cup final a mate and I were holding seats for others. Along came the big man of the pub with his girlfriend on the look out to show off his brilliance. He asked if they could sit down but we told him friends were coming shortly. “You’ve got friends?!” he said, with a quick glance to check if his girlfriend was impressed by his wit, just like Alan Partridge would. Naturally, awkward silence followed, as did the embarrassment of his girlfriend behind him. Like Barca, he was trying to disparage people who he quickly came not to like. He and Barca were the same, why? Because both wanted something to which they had no access. 

To Cesc’s credit he felt awkward and embarrassed. There was even potential for it to be a classic moment from The Office. I’m thinking of the scene where David Brent keeps slapping Malcolm’s bald head and calling him Kojak. Quickly the joke wears thin and an angry Malcolm bats away his hand. There is stunned silence and the viewer is left cringing at the hostility. Cesc couldn’t create any sort of Ricky Gervais slapstick magic though, instead – and again to his credit – he behaved with reservation, just like Arsenal have over the whole tapping-up affair that has become the biggest joke of all this summer. Cesc was Hyacinth Bucket, Keeping Up Appearances! 

Barcelona may have the last laugh when they sign Fabregas. Most likely that will be next summer. Maybe Barca have made so many publicity errors Arsenal won’t sell at all. Maybe Arsenal do trade and Cesc becomes used goods, just like those who went before him. That will reveal itself in time. At the moment however, I’m happy to play the role of cantankerous seaside hotel owner Basil Fawlty and dislike anybody who attempts to unsettle the running of Arsenal FC. Or perhaps more like Police Inspector Raymond Fowler from The Thin Blue Line, who attempts to run a tidy and honest ship. I guess that makes Barcelona the bitter Derek Grim who runs the yobbish CID team. Simply put: loudmouthed!

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