— Fragments


Usually I hate to be wrong, but here is a case where I am truly delighted. Writing off the great Puyol’s international career was in retrospect a silly mistake. Tenacity, determination, hard work, and class have a way of showing through. Let it be a lesson!

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NYC. July 1, 2012.

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Aitor Karanka, assistant manager of Real Madrid, former Spain international, son of the Basque Country, has become part of José Mourinho’s “family.” The Special One has assured the world that wherever he goes, Karanka will follow.

Yesterday we were even blessed with the unnerving spectacle of Mourinho and his technical staff singing, “Karanka portugués, Karanka portugués.” Karanka is so loyal that he’s even switched nationalities, apparently.

But after watching the video, I couldn’t help but be reminded of another welcome, from the 1932 classic “Freaks.”

Is there a similarity here or is it just me?

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I sent the last post to my father with the subject line “Very angry.” He replied that he thought I was angry because Puyol was going to miss the Eurocup, not about Syria.

I am not angry that Carles Puyol will miss the Eurocup, I am sad. I first really became aware of the Spain and Barcelona defender at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. First of all, in the great tradition of Spanish international footballers, Puyol is a pretty caveman-looking dude, strikingly so. His hair, which has gotten even longer over the years, was already out of control back then.

Immediately noticeable in Puyol’s play was his fierce desire to compete and to win. To watch him fearlessly launch his body in the path of shots and oncoming attackers made you believe that here was a player that aspired to more than Spain’s usual quarter-finals. When Spain was cruelly eliminated by South Korea, Puyol was one of the last with any energy left, throwing himself forward again and again, in search of the goal his team needed.

When he attacked, he was tremendous. Look at this goal he set up for Fernando Torres at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Impressive skill.

It’s true that in his early days, sometimes his enthusiasm led him into defensive blunders. But he settled down, became an absolute rock. Let us remember that in the three games of the knockout stage at Euro 2008, and the four games of the final stage of the 2010 World Cup, Spain let in precisely zero goals. Puyol was the boss of that defense.

He was pretty useful with his head too. Take that, Germans!

For a few months this year, Puyol was the champion of Spain, Europe, and the World with his club, and the champion of Europe and the World with Spain. That is an absolutely unprecedented achievement in world football. Puyol is one of the best defenders to have ever played.

Puyol has injured his knee, and will not play his 100th game for Spain at the Eurocup. It is a hard blow for him and for all football fans. At 34, it’s unlikely that he will play for Spain again in a major tournament, so there will be no more memories of that tremendous fighter in the red shirt. We will have to satisfy ourselves with the many beautiful moments he has given us.

Gracias campeón!

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I wrote these little articles back in the spring of 2010. Circumstances distracted me, but Spain went ahead and won the world cup anyway. Thanks guys.

I suppose that I will make an effort to write more about my obsession with Spanish football, but I make no guarantees.


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