Manero

Black Cats and Voodoo Dolls

By: Alfonso Duro

FC Barcelona kicked off their La Liga campaign with an easy victory against Elche, but if they learned anything from their last season debut, they’ll take this game for what it truly was: a sweet reminder that summer is, technically, still not over.

A MADRIDISTA BLACK CAT?: Barça played their first match at Camp Nou this season with the unforeseen appearance of a black cat on the field. The game was stopped for a full five minutes and not even Javier Mascherano was able to keep him out—and that says a lot about the cat. While still not confirmed if anybody from Real Madrid planted the ominous animal in the middle of the pitch, we shouldn’t doubt it. In the last few years the Merengues have tried to do anything within their means to break the Blaugrana’s victorious reign, but if a black cat didn’t cut it against Elche, what will be next? Voodoo dolls? Perhaps, but even those seem to have failed others in the past.

MABROUK, MUNIR: Write that name down. Munir El Haddadi is a Spanish-born Moroccan forward who has taken Spanish soccer by storm. Some may say it’s too early to get all excited about him, but the last few weeks in this kid’s life do resemble Raúl González’s fairy-tale beginnings with Real Madrid. For starters, the striker has been Barcelona’s top preseason scorer and already popped his cherry in La Liga’s opener. At 18, Munir is the new hero of the Arab world, and Morocco has already started to pull some strings to convince him to play with their national team rather than with La Roja. Congrats, kiddo. Or shall we say, “Mabrouk, Munir”?

THE EVER-SHIFTING MESSI: In the last few months, Lionel Messi seems to have made it his mission to confuse everyone. Sometimes, La Pulga can show no interest in a match, aimlessly wander around the field for most of the game and even throw up on the pitch if he feels like it—only to snap out of his daze in a second, score a beautiful goal and save the day for his team. There are other games in which he seems to be the TV-commercial version of him, the soccer god who can turn anybody into a believer. And then there are games like the one against Elche this past weekend, where he seems to be just enjoying himself, making the act of scoring two goals as easy as taking candy from a baby. Which one is the real Messi? All of them? We’ll see.

CLAUDIO BRAVO’S DAY OFF: The Chilean goalkeeper was making his official debut with his new team and suiting up for Luis Enrique’s squad for the first time since he showed a terrible weakness of the wrists against Napoli during preseason. He had a pleasant match, with Elche literally* not receiving a single shot on goal during the 90 minutes of the match. Bravo had some time to stretch, work on his hamstrings by doing some squats and probably even balanced his checkbook while at it. Things couldn’t have been easier for the goalkeeper in his first game with the Blaugranas, so much so that he may as well have kept the black cat to keep himself entertained.

*In this case we mean literally, literally. Not figuratively, as they are trying to make us believe is okay to do nowadays.

Alfonso Duro is a Spanish freelance writer. When he's not managing Google's agency in the United Arab Emirates (his current job), chances are he's watching and writing about soccer.