El Classico. The club match that much of the world stops to watch. It has all of the hype and most of the punch it is perpetually cracked up to having. Ideological enemies take sides on the pitch and do battle with nothing less than the emotional health and national—or regional depending upon how you look at it—pride at stake.
Long before and long after the actual match takes place the intellectual fight between supporters rages on. Who's side is more talented? Who's side plays a more beautiful game? And then come the political questions too, often hinted at through innuendo so as not to start a real war between reluctant compatriots.
Today's immediate question is which team has the beauty and integrity of the game as its utmost priority?
The answer is FC Barcelona.
Their is a beauty inherent in the way Barcelona approach the game. This principled approach is present in every aspect and at every level; from the coach and players on the pitch to the front office. Barca is a family. The dignity with which they operate is seen by some as smuggness.
This is because the unfortunate reality is that many view Barca, football, and sports in general through a modern lens that sees players move from team to team like cattle on an auction block, being poked and prodded to test for quality and strength.
The Real Madrids and AC Milans of the world have propagated this mentality that bigger is better. This is not the first time Madrid has fielded a lineup of Hollywood athletes, but make no mistake about it, they are a team with great talent. This is undeniable. Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema, and co. will present a challenge for anyone who dares to cross them this season.
But we are not talking about a team with great talent. We are asking another, more profound question. Who is the great team ? Greatness goes beyond amassed talent. It transcends the quantifiable. It is much more than a team's goal differential.
Barca and their entire family, their entire world wide community, are united in principal. Real Madrid can't even seem to bring themselves to celebrate goals together yet.
FC Barcelona is the standard by which all others are measured. They have set this remarkably high bar over the course of decades of dignified action and footballing brilliance. We have seen the ultimate culmination of this in their run to six trophies in 12 months. It is a deep pride, a great passion and a true love that exists in this community.
For the sake of the rest of the world, including the boys in white, the sublime brilliance of the message should be learned like the ultimate lesson that it is: Mes que un club!