this article came out in the middle of october, but i somehow missed it. i’m translating it now, before our game against zaragoza, while hoping that our captain will play and not get injured. it’s a lyrical piece, but that doesn’t surprise me — i’ve met football fans of all ages, sizes and inclinations, and all of them can’t help but wax romantic when talking about puyi. it’s undeniable that his charisma is palpable, even across a computer screen from half a world away.
the original article can be found here: http://www.martiperarnau.com/historias/retratos/demasiado-corazon/ . i added some photos and videos 🙂
SO MUCH HEART by Jorge Martinez
To Puyol, like a lone wolf, he was released upon the Camp Nou one winter night in 2000 to feast on Figo. The Portuguese had returned to Barcelona in white despite spending all summer vehemently insisting that he would never sign for Madrid, that it would be crazy. Carles, still with #24 on his back, was chosen to mark the winger, and no other player in football history has been able to repeat such marking with that fanaticism. The man from La Pobla ended up doing Luis a favor, because he guarded him so closely that he seemed a bit like a bodyguard hired by Florentino to prevent a mob from overwhelming his new signing. That night, he became a full-fledged blaugrana.
Two years later, Figo visited the cule stadium for the second time, and the Catalan defender returned to keep things dignified: between pigheads and bottles of JB, like a pagan holiday, Puyol started gesturing to the stands for the people to stop the madness.
The same season, during a fierce Champions League match against Lokomotiv, he definitely earned a place in the blaugrana frieze: The Nigerian striker Obiorah escaped Bonano, and was aiming an easy course towards the southern goal of the CampNou, empty and wide. He was already positioning his leg when Puyol stepped in with the faith of a crusader. The defender, with a gesture contorted and streaked with hair, flung his hands behind him and leapt to stop the ball with the crest while 100,000 children became cules.
However, five seasons passed since his debut without winning any trophies, something intolerable for a professional of his caliber, having turned 27 without knowing how it felt to lift a cup. He considered the offer from Milan, where he had been received like a Caesar (“Il Capitano”, as they say over there), but he decided to hold on and trust in the project of Laporta. After a bad winter, Rikjaard managed to sign Edgar Davids, and he put the Dutchman in an eleven that played in 4-3-3 harmony, following the natural order of things. After that, Barça started stringing together victories like there was no tomorrow. So many that they almost won the league even if they had to rise up from 12th place.
In the middle of this scintillating run, Barcelona reached the Mestalla. Valencia, who eventually won the cup, had raised their colors many times during the previous years in the hands of “Piojo” Lopez and company. Barça won 0-1 with a goal of Gerard from a corner. It was a turning point. When the referee blew the final whistle, Puyol was seen celebrating the victory with unprecedented fervor, shaking off the dirt of five years of frustrations like he was frightening away an army of
wasps. He had broken the curse, and it was payback time. At any moment, he could kick open the saloon door and ask who had decorated the porch with the body of his friend.
The following year, Luis and Cocu, the two captains, retired. Puyol was given the armband, and he began to make room for all the cups that would come to Barça, as if he had commissioned them all.
And so it has been during the previous years. A time when he has won everything that a player can win, although it has been tarnished a little by the string of injuries that have left his body beaten* from top to bottom. (*The term was “rejoneado”, which is used to describe a bull that has been lanced by a matador)
The night that he injured his arm in Lisbon, someone on twitter suggested that such an injury is because the defender plays with his momentum intact at 20 years of age, but his body has not kept up. Probably. Puyol does everything with momentum, he has built his career around it. It’s what makes him charge with blind and visceral fury, causing his cheekbone to open every three months, allowing him to stay in the elite at 34.
It was with this momentum that he ran over half the German team and Pique during the semifinals of the last World Cup. He knocked them all down like a strike at a bowling alley, and scored what would be, together with the 2-6 at the Bernabeu, the goal of his life. In South Africa was the only time he lost control of the situation. After he scored, he wasn’t too sure of what to do. He trotted disoriented while heading to his teammates until they managed to stop him from running out of the stadium like Forrest Gump.
In contrast to the Barça of violinists and sommeliers, Puyol closes ranks pounding a drum and carrying a Viking horn. When he is on the pitch, the cule fans feel a tranquility simila to that of children who sleep with the hall light on. He was this more than ever when Barça went to the Bernabeu for the first of the four ineffable Clasicos of 2011. As soon as he learned that the League was secured, he pulled down his socks and threw himself on the ground, disabled again. The past season was, basically, dedicated to playing against Madrid. He always came at the last moment, forcing the machine. He wiped out the Merengue attack, and when the match was secured, exited on a stretcher until the next derby, like film stuntmen. Curiously, Puyol is the player most respected and loved by the Madrid fans, even more than Iniesta. In these cases, the judgment of the eternal rival is the perfect touchstone to determine the humanity of a player, and the Catalan defender far surpasses that test because in that pasion, in that savagery like Saturn devouring his children, there is no place for violence, nor for dark arts, nor for provocation. Quite the contrary.
When he retires, if ever that day does come, he should be brought to the mountains of Lleida and there be treated like a prize stallion, while all of us cross our fingers fervently, like they do in the Barcelona Zoo while waiting for the white gorilla to come out.
*** end of article ***
a captain like ours comes once in a lifetime — visca!