Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 6.8.21

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’ 

 Cosas de España/Galiza

Apologies for yesterday’s error. Spain is still on the UK’s Amber list but hasn’t been moved to Amber+. And we fully jabbed non-residents can go there without having to quarantine. But who could blame me for confusion, given how frequently the UK government changes its rules/recommendations? As of today, it’s reported that arrivals from Spain are “advised” to take a PCR ‘fit to fly’ test, rather than a lateral flow test. As has been said: This has no legal impact and simply adds additional complexity and confusion.

Congrats to Spain’s police force(s) for capturing a boss of Italy’s most dangerous mafia clan, which controls much of Europe’s cocaine trade. Arrested in Madrid he was head of Ndrangheta, a syndicate based in Calabria notorious for its drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering.

A wail of pain: Lionel Messi’s bitter Barcelona exit is strange, sad and wrong. See the article below.

María’s Not So Fast: Day 31  We-deserved laurels. (And more Vox nastiness).

The UK 

Just as I insist there’d be no Spanish-style region-based crowing if someone from Cheshire won an Olympics medal, along comes this Times headline: Northwest England overtakes London to lead the gold medal table for Team GB. But at least ‘The North West’ covers a number of regions and no newspaper in Spain would even think of using that term to include Galicia, Asturias and bits of Cantabria.

The EU 

The attack on cash, this Irish chap says, is a crackdown on your freedom. I suspect he’s right.

The Way of the World

An ‘invisible structure’/empty space was auctioned in May for €15,000. The buyer went home with a certificate of authenticity, and instructions on how to exhibit their purchase in a private house, in a space of roughly 5-by-5 foot, free of obstruction. “It’s a work that asks you to activate the power of the imagination, a power that anyone has. Even those who don’t believe they have it.”, said some fraudster. The fashion for imaginary artworks has been growing in recent years, with Garau’s ‘Invisible sculpture Buddha in Contemplation’ exhibited in Milan last February, and his non-existent ‘Afrodite Crying’ (inside an empty white circle) was installed outside the New York City stock exchange in June. Nice work, if you can get it.

Finally  . . .

They were the Silver Beetles and they played Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. Two of only a handful of surviving set-lists written and performed by the Beatles are to be auctioned. The first lists the 25 songs the fledgling band played in a 1960 residency at the Grosvenor Ballroom in Liscard, Merseyside. . . . Liscard where I went to primary school and I was living nearby at that time but didn’t know anything about this ‘gig’ Anyway, I was too young to be a fan. But I did see them once at the (dark, damp and sweaty) Cavern in Liverpool, 2-3 years later, before they hit the big time,

And I  did see Messi play in the (astonishing) Nou Camp.

Note 1: It seems WordPress sends emails immediately I’ve published my posts, before I’ve had a further chance to correct typos and other errors. Sorry about that. I’ll try harder to avoid them.

Note 2: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here


Lionel Messi’s bitter Barcelona exit is strange, sad and wrong: Henry Winter. The Times

Remember the date, August 5, 2021, and the time, 6.51pm. It is no exaggeration to claim that no one who loves football will ever forget it. What happened at that point felt so seismic, strange, sad and wrong. It was one of those jaw- dropping moments, one of those events in history when you will always remember where you were when the administration at Nou Camp tweeted the statement headlined: “Leo #Messi will not continue with Barcelona.”

In the modern way, they even hashtagged Messi in this trending, heart-rending news. This is more than a club story, this is global. Visitors thought the Sagrada Família would be finished in Barcelona before Messi. For those admiring this great conurbation’s myriad attractions, the immediate reaction was to try somehow to imagine the impossible: the Nou Camp without Messi, the city of Antoni Gaudí, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró without this footballing artist in residence, as he has been since October 16, 2004 when he came on in the 82nd minute against Espanyol. Art followed Deco. The headlines wrote themselves.

And the headlines have been written by Messi ever since. He has been more than a player for the self-styled “more than a club”. He has been talisman, beacon, merchandising magnet, symbol and saviour. Good luck to whoever dares take that No 10 shirt that fitted Messi like skin.

That statement must have stirred anger as well as heartache among not only Barcelona fans, those who worship weekly at the shrine of the little Argentinian with the immense skill, but to football lovers around the world. Every home game pre-pandemic had English families flying in, getting tickets, spending £80 on a Messi shirt at the club shop, then heading into the ground to see Messi more than Barcelona. He is more than a player.

Messi is the type of footballing maestro who turns his peers into fans. Michael Carrick played for Manchester United against Messi in two Champions League finals and heard all the advice of critics saying: “Show him on to his right foot,” but Messi was still dangerous, and simply getting close to him was near-impossible in the first place. Tackling Messi was like tracking a firefly. Carrick analysed Messi at length in advance of those 2009 and 2011 finals but when it came to it, Messi turned quicker than any attempted marker, and was gone. His control in tight spaces remains.

In that first final against United, in Rome, Messi demonstrated again his versatility and team-minded nature, switching with Samuel Eto’o, operating as false No 9 and deceiving Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. There is a moment in the first half where Messi dribbles forward and Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Vidic are outfoxed and left behind. Yet even two years later, in the Wembley final, United knew Messi would work as a No 9, dropping off with David Villa and Pedro pushing high and wide. Messi’s movement was so clever that Vidic tore into Carrick at half-time, demanding more protection. Messi found space again and scored. Sometimes, it is impossible to stifle genius.

United players discussed Messi frequently during that period when their clubs duelled for European glory, and they almost accepted ruefully that whatever tactics you use against Messi, he can handle it. Kick him, and he bounces back. Crowd him in a gang of ambushers, and he simply spins away then releases a team-mate in space. Show Messi wide, and he stretches you, then turns inside and opens you up. Try to man-mark him, and that low centre of gravity lets him escape with two steps while an opponent takes his first step. Messi is a mix of mercury and majesty.

Those who have tried to go up against him confide painfully that Messi doesn’t do tricks for show, he simply executes that phenomenal technique for the good of the team. Carrick, one of the most thoughtful of English footballers in the Messi era, always felt that while he saw a blur of movement in a high-level, high-speed game, Messi enjoyed a pin-sharp picture. His vision was clearer, quicker. This special talent operated in HD while others were still switching from analogue.

So this is what Barcelona are losing. Seriously? After all he has done, not least the ten Spanish titles and four Champions Leagues? This is not about past glories. This is about Messi, who is still Barcelona’s most important player, who will doubtless be on Paris Saint-Germain’s quivering radar. At 34, Messi still menaces. He still matters.