It’s time to don your Christmas jumpers, sit back on the Val Doonican rocking chair and enjoy the third Christmas Special from the Football Sofa. This year, we’re going to Catalonia.
Many years ago, before time itself, it had been prophesied that a messiah would be born.
Our Lord Diego, sitting upon his throne of majesty with his right hand forever attached to the Holy Football of the Azteca, had witnessed generation after generation of his children wantonly turn their backs on the virtue and goodness he had bestowed upon them. His Great Game had been shunned by unbelievers who sought to grow fat on the profits of Champions League expansion. Those living under their protection had sought to curry favour by committing the heinous sin of the defensive formation.
As a consequence of this, Lord Diego despatched his emissary, the archangel Gabriel Batistuta to the Catalonian capital of Barcelona where he visited the Virgin Guardiola in a vision. She would give birth to the Saviour who would shine a light onto the world and remind Diego’s children that His way was the only way. The archangel whispered into her sleeping ear that her boy would be known forevermore as Lionel.
The Virgin Guardiola was betrothed to the artisan Johan Cruyff. He was a man of stubborn temperament but was highly respected amongst the local citizenry despite living in exile for many years. As a follower of the Right Way, he duly acquiesced to the Lord’s wishes and began to make plans for the schooling of the boy in the teaching of the ancient prophets Michels and Lobanovsky. The archangel expressly forbade the Holy Couple from exposing the newborn to the dark forces of catenaccio and Tony Pulis for in them lay the path to ruin and eternal damnation.
As the Virgin grew, the Emperor Sepp Blattericus, whose heathen legions occupied the four corners of the world, decreed that all his subjects were required to take part in a census, the like of which had never been undertaken before. This edict was laid down seemingly because the Emperor had grown hungrier for more power. He wished to log the credit card details of those dwelling under his rule in order to control who would be able to enter arenas. Blattericus had become impatient with the calls for fairness and transparency in his regime and his plan was to obstruct those deemed by his lieutenants as troublesome.
With that, Johan and Guardiola had to make the long, arduous journey across the Pyrenees and through Gaul to Johan’s country of origin. Luckily, the trip was made easier due to the convenience of modern day tarmac and highway planning but Guardiola was left in slight discomfort because the family was forced to travel in a two-seater convertible rather than the Range Rover she would have preferred.
As luck would have it, they arrived in Amsterdam on Christmas Eve but were unable to secure lodgings at Johan’s former workshop. Thankfully, he kept a key to the changing room seeing as he was so “highly respected” and the Holy Couple bedded down for the night as Guardiola’s waters broke.
The babe’s imminent birth had sent shockwaves throughout the FIFA empire and hearing of this wondrous miracle, three wise men guided by the floodlights from the Amsterdam Arena made their way towards it in order to bear witness and give thanks for the arrival of the Messi Messiah. As the Virgin swaddled him in her arms, they came.
From the New World, moving to the rhythm of the samba came a king adorned in yellow. Pelè, for that was his name, festooned upon the child the gift of a glistening golden ball. From the dull gloom of industrial Manchester, the philosopher Cantona bowed at the infant’s feet and bequeathed upon him a lifetime’s Pepsi sponsorship. And finally, from the great port of Marseilles, the dignified presence of Zidane the Great delivered unto the Son of Diego a custom-made PS3 fresh from the box. Material possessions were not all the magi had to offer though. Pelè imbued the boy with the gift of virility. Cantona gave him the quality of obtuseness. Whilst Zidane endowed upon him the mark of unpredictability. And so they did marvel at this child.
As did the shepherds, Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta who came to bow and give salutation. They swore to devote their lives to the Messiah and vowed to aid him in all his endeavours. They tied around his wrist a ribbon of maroon and blue, as a mark of their promise and Johan and the Virgin Guardiola nodded with quiet dignity and acknowledgment of the shepherds’ show of faith.
News of Lionel’s birth spread fast. King Jose of Madrid had been placed as protectorate of Blattericus’ interests in Iberia and was threatened by the prophecy that the Messiah would make himself manifest in the rebel stronghold of Barcelona. Desperate to maintain his loosening grip, he sent out a creed of his most trusted assassins led by Ronaldo the Ruthless and Pepe The Pugnacious to subdue and destroy any rumblings of support for the Chosen One.
It came to pass that King Jose’s vainglorious attempts proved futile. Lionel of Messi went on to surpass the achievements of all the great prophets that came before him. Two thousand years after his birth, the faithful continue to come to worship at the Camp Nou. To mark his birth, families gather around their festive tables to eat a stuffed pig’s bladder and many believers wear one of Pelè’s golden balls around their necks. Some can be also heard in the stands taking His name in vain.
There continue to be many non-believers in the world. That cannot be denied. There are those who maintain their ambivalence towards the beauty of the Right Way. However, whilst we have Messi in our hearts, may our way prove to be righteous.
For that we give thanks. In the name of Diego, Lionel and the Holy Hand, amen.
To readers old and new, Dispatches wishes you all a safe, peaceful and happy Christmas. May your teams bring you the three points you all hope for.
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