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Gastelum: Champions League final brings disappointment (April 26)

Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, April 26, 2012

There is good news based on these past two days in sports: The world will not end in 2012. Why not? Because Barcelona and Real Madrid are not meeting in the Champions League final.

The Mayans were pretty close in their prediction though. Except they, like the rest of us, didn’t think there was any way a 10-man Chelsea could have upset Barcelona at the Camp Nou – although they probably could have predicted John Terry’s red card.

With wins in the last two days, Barcelona and Real Madrid would have met in the UEFA Champions League Final on May 19 in Munich. It would have been El Clásico to end all Clásicos. The biggest rivalry in all of sports, on the biggest stage in club soccer: It would have been too much.

The rivalry goes beyond sports – as soccer does better than any other sport – and ventures into the realm of nationalism and regional rivalry.

Barca represents the Catalans, who have constantly fought for independence from Spain. The region supports its own language and culture and manifests itself in the Blaugrana. Alternating blue and red stripes, Lionel Messi and a beautiful, fluid attack – that is Barcelona.

Real represents the central Spaniards. The region includes basically anyone who calls himself a Spaniard, creating the Spanish language and culture we know today. And all of this is most clear in Los Blancos. Immaculate white with gold trim, Cristiano Ronaldo and a powerful, high-octane attack – that is Real Madrid.

It would have been perfect. But it would have been too much.

So Chelsea and Bayern Munich saved the world, stealing victories from Barca and Real so that we could all live to see another day.

Last week in west London, Chelsea wrestled a 1-0 victory away from Barcelona much to the surprise of the Barca bandwagon and the soccer world in general. But there was no way Chelsea could go onto the heralded grounds of the Camp Nou and do it again.

Things looked even more bleak for the Blues on Tuesday, when Captain Controversy, himself, John Terry decided to see how far Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez’s leg would bend. Terry’s antics earned him a red card, leaving the Blues without their captain and top defender against the pack of wolves led by Messi and Xavi.

But a 10-man Chelsea did its best impression of the Italian national team, throwing every player within 10 meters of the penalty box and just defended for the game’s entirety. Then, the impossible happened in stoppage time with Barca mounting a furious attack: Fernando Torres scored a goal for Chelsea.

And just like that, the dream matchup was ruined, with Chelsea somehow advancing to the ‘ship in Munich.

To make matters worse, Real Madrid couldn’t even add some excitement to the championship. It would have still been a great final, with Real coach Jose Mourinho up against his old team for the trophy. But Los Blancos couldn’t get past Bayern Munich on Wednesday, losing in dreadful penalty kicks. Ronaldo scored two goals, but missed his penalty kick to start the round – apparently distracted by his suddenly messy hairdo. And Bayern stormed out with the win.

We expected to see an epic Barca-Real showdown for the biggest trophy in soccer, and instead we get two teams who have no shot at a league title. In fact, Chelsea probably won’t even make the Champions League next year, yet will have a chance to win it this year.

Instead of seeing the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol and Iker Casillas vying for a Champions League title, we will see the Chelsea and Bayern reserve squads, as the two will lose a combined seven starters for the championship game due to an absurd accumulation of yellow and red cards.

If we had gotten our way, the final would have ended the debate as to who sits at futbol’s throne. Instead we will have to enjoy the final for what it is worth: just another good game rather than “El Clásico Clásico” – no that is not a typo – that would have done wonders for the sport.

It would have been perfect. To see that game, I would just have let the world end.

¿Cómo se dice, ‘do-over’?

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.