Thursday, May 7, 2009
BURNING DOWN THE BRIDGE
There exists an old folk tale about this masterful village hunter who once went out into the bush on a mission to ensnare a marauding leopard that had made plundering the village stock its habit. The story goes that upon capturing the vicious cat, the hunter proceeded to skin it alive without a second thought.
But borne out of natural human compassion, he spared the leopard’s harmless single cub that had been orphaned by his act which he decided to take for a ‘pet’. In due course, the baby leopard matured into a supple full-bodied feline; all the while feigning the presumed disposition of a domesticated cat.
Then one day, in sudden fit of wild instinct, the big cat pounced on its surrogate mother dog and her pups before fatally mauling its master – the village hunter. Oh, how one man’s folly left an entire village astounded beyond words!
After holding sway for exactly 83 minutes, Chelsea were the architects of their own down fall at the hands of a coy and subdued Barcelona on Wednesday night in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi final clash at the Stamford Bridge.
One fanatical supporter of Chelsea even went to the extent of spinning a lengthy yarn last week on the pages of a local leading daily boldly proclaiming how “the Blue Army would march out of their besieged fort and throttle the Catalans by the throat , leaving them for dead at the Bridge…”, blah blah blah… on and on he went. What illusory perversion of reality!
Obviously, this match will be the subject of an endless debate, particularly so from the deeply aggrieved Chelsea sympathizers, in many years to come. But as one neutral observer pointed out – and rightly so – while the much touted Barcelona disappointed heavily on the night, Chelsea on their part didn’t impress either. By 'petting' an already wounded but viciously dangerous opponent, they suffered the repercussions of incessantly teasing and tempting fate.
That flimsy hue and cry pathetically fronted by a section of the Blues’ loyal followers to the effect that match referee, Tom Henning Ovrebo, committed high treason by stoically ‘fixing’ the match in favour of Barcelona is, to say the least, a defeatist scapegoat. Irrespective of the countless penalty appeals that the official waved away, Chelsea had the best openings and should have buried the pretenders from Catalonia long before halftime.
Football being the ‘cruel’ sport that it is, you could get the feeling that somehow Chelsea would be made to pay the ultimate price for their grievously misplaced sense of comfort while delicately hanging on to that solitary wonder of a goal from Michael Essien. At that point, it would have only been prudent to kill off the contest – Manchester United style. But unfortunately they didn’t.
There is no gainsaying that they learnt their lesson the hard way and it served them right! Even worse was the petulant outburst from a furious Didier Drogba his anger directed at the Norwegian official long after the final whistle. Akin to flogging a dead horse, it was utterly senseless!
Stadio Olimpico in Rome is the final rendezvous for arguably the best two clubs in Europe on the 27th May 2009. The acrimony surrounding Chelsea’s ouster lends it more credence as a must-watch match. Man U stands as firm favourites but having ‘rigged’ their way into the final, Barca may possibly just confound the naysayers with a more credible display in Rome. Man U are well advised here to be extremely wary of the wily ways of the Catalans.
I wonder though the emotions this match will stir in the hearts of diehard Chelsea faithful. While in the event of a Barcelona triumph they will feel grossly cheated, still a victory for bitter rivals will do very little to placate their punctured ego.