Oct 26, 2018Sid LoweSpain author TARRAGONA, Spain — An Olympic gold medallist is misplaced among the many timber. Albert Ferrer, founder member of the “Dream Crew,” winner of 5 league titles and of the European Cup at Wembley in 1992 — an exorcism that continues to be probably the most emblematic second in FC Barcelona’s whole historical past — cannot discover what he’s in search of.He climbs a small hill, circling by way of the shade, nonetheless attempting to work out what occurred, attempting to achieve his bearings when a 69-year-old, white-haired man involves his help, lifting his hat as he arrives. “A gentleman,” Ferrer calls him.
Ramon Calderon, as soon as the president of Actual Madrid and the person who signed Cristiano Ronaldo — the person, too, who describes promoting Ronaldo as a “historic mistake” — joins the search. Finally, they see it. There by a tree, wedged in opposition to the wooden, is Ferrer’s golf ball. Squeezing himself in, gloves hanging out his again pocket, he clips the ball in the direction of the inexperienced — it takes two photographs — the place, a number of metres away, Calderon is now standing smiling within the sunshine, a membership in his hand.He’s successful, too. This spherical goes to Actual Madrid. It’s three days earlier than the Clasico, and — as they do yearly — they’re holding a clasico of their very own, the rivalry revived. As if it ever actually died away. All of the chat, all of the reminiscences, all of the little digs, winding one another up.It has been 20 years since Ferrer performed in opposition to the everlasting enemy for the final time, earlier than heading to England to affix Chelsea, and a decade now since Calderon left the Madrid presidency — grateful, he as soon as stated, to stroll away moderately than be carried out in a field, so nice is the strain — however there’s one thing about Madrid-Barcelona that is at all times there. For all of them. There’s a motive they have been introduced collectively: the most important soccer match on this planet impacts upon them and nonetheless will get performed out, albeit this time with a ball that is lots smaller.Paco Pavon, the person (a child again then) who gave his identify to Madrid’s well-known galactico coverage of “Zidanes and Pavones,” remembers his first and his favorite Clasico: a 2-0 win within the European Cup semifinal, with targets from Zidane and Steve McManaman. That was 16 years in the past, however he says “there is not a single day goes by once I do not give it some thought in some unspecified time in the future.”Right this moment, particularly. There’s nostalgia, and there is additionally competitors: dozens of gamers embracing after which taking one another on. Speaking about what’s going to occur on Sunday: Lionel Messi’s damage, Julen Lopetegui’s future, Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit and the place the targets have gone, additionally the place Ousmane Dembele has gone, what occurs subsequent, with Calderon saying he’s satisfied that Jose Mourinho might be again and that there might be fires began at each flip when he’s. However speaking about what’s taking place now extra. This issues. Madrid vs. Barcelona on a golf course outdoors Tarragona.Even years after they stopped enjoying, it is there. “It marks you, shapes your life,” says Dani Garcia Lara.Albert Ferrer, who represented Barcelona for almost a decade, tees off in Thursday’s clasico golf match. Sid Lowe / ESPN FCDani thinks the final Clasico he was at was when the previous Barcelona captain Luis Figo returned to the Camp Nou after his defection to Actual Madrid, absolutely probably the most acrimonious switch in historical past. You may keep in mind it: that was the night time a pig’s head was thrown at Figo.”Folks attempt to say it is simply one other recreation, however it’s not,” he says. “Everybody’s speaking about it: your loved ones, your mates, the baker down the highway. You see who actual gamers are on the market, the character. The strain is big. This may sound daft, however you’ll be able to really feel such as you’re struggling for air, barely capable of breathe. It does one thing to you. Folks say: ‘Ah, they’re made from stone.’ B——s. It is one thing else, not like something, anyplace. And it is with you at all times.”As they chat, one participant says that the Clasico is not the identical with out Ronaldo and Messi — for the primary time since December 2007 — and that a number of the glamour has gone, even when the sport tends to ship anyway. As for him, and for the remainder of them, the reality is that they are not what they have been, both. Solely, one other participant insists, they’re at all times what they have been. “You by no means cease being a footballer,” he says.Most of them by no means cease being rivals, both.Bumping down the green on a buggy ever on the verge of rolling the wrong way up, enjoying one gap earlier than Ferrer and Calderon, Pavon is up in opposition to Gerard Lopez, a Barcelona youth teamer who later revamped 100 first-team appearances and have become the membership’s B crew supervisor. His shot has gone a little bit awry. “That is my downside,” he says.Not far behind, Alfonso Perez is getting ready to tee off. Well-known for carrying white boots when nobody else did, a Spain worldwide who scored that dramatic last-minute winner in opposition to Yugoslavia at Euro 2000, Getafe’s stadium is known as after him — a Coliseum, no much less — however he performed for Actual Madrid and Barcelona.Miguel Angel Nadal is right here, too. “The Beast,” they used to name him. So is Alexanco, the person who lifted that European Cup at Wembley, the second that despatched the membership’s then-president heading off for a 5 a.m. swim within the Thames.There are others from that period, like Julio Salinas; Thomas Christiansen, the Dane who performed for Spain and appeared for each side of the Asturias divide, Sporting Gijon and Actual Oviedo, the place followers sang his identify to the tune of “Brown Lady in The Ring”; even Jesus Angoy, the goalkeeper who turned an expert American soccer kicker, is current.Throughout the grass, previous the bunkers and thru the timber, alongside the trail the place the buggies bounce by the clubhouse, there is a padel competitors occurring, a clasico on the courtroom: quick and aggressive. Like doubles tennis however enclosed inside a glass cage.If the golf is relatively genteel, this is not. Inside, trophies await.”A few of them go a bit far,” a European Cup winner grins, glancing again at them as he heads right down to the primary tee. Ferrer agrees. “That is why I am enjoying golf as an alternative,” he laughs. “It’s kind of extra relaxed.” Pavon insists that golf is simpler in your again, one thing he ought to maybe inform these at all times pointing the finger at Gareth Bale.The competitors on the golf course was sedate in contrast with issues on the padel courtroom: padel is a racket sport combining badminton, tennis and squash. ESPN FC / Sid LoweOn the padel courtroom, no-one is taking it simple. Santi Ezquerro smashes an ideal shot, shouting “sure!” and asking whether or not anybody recorded it. One other former Barcelona participant, a youth teamer who was breaking by way of because the Dream Crew gained its fourth league title in a row, however whom it appears finest to not identify now, chases the ball and crashes into the glass, sending it shuddering. He throws his racket down in anger, swearing loudly and thumping the glass. One other former participant is quickly doing the identical, the racket skidding throughout the sand. He is indignant, that is for positive.It is not speculated to matter who wins, however it does. They only can not help it. By the point the ultimate comes two hours later, sweat flowing freely after two earlier rounds, it’s clear. Dani, an ex-striker nonetheless in ludicrously fine condition, is enjoying with former Spain U-21 supervisor Luis Milla, as soon as thought of the embodiment of the ball-playing midfielder, the predecessor to Pep Guardiola and a person who has simply returned to Spain having been coach of Indonesia’s nationwide crew.Dani and Luis are fast throughout the courtroom — even when Luis says the last decade’s distinction between the 2 males exhibits, insisting “they might stick Dani on the pitch on Sunday” — and intelligent. They’re victorious, too. And so, the trophy is theirs, one other win for…Madrid? Barcelona? Which one is it?Recreation over, Luis stretches on the grass, legs out, a smile on his face and a glint in his eye, sitting within the solar and watching whereas Dani performs one other recreation simply because he can. They performed, and performed correctly, however for whom? He is not saying; it would not matter, he claims, winking. He can get away with it, too, and he is been attempting to for years.This time, the success and the glory is shared — virtually as if this was arrange, the right pleasant ending. As a result of, like everybody else right here, Dani Garcia Lara and Luis Milla skilled Clasicos from the within, however they have been totally different. As a result of Dani García Lara and Luis Milla performed for Actual Madrid and Barcelona.