Dial S to suffer

The Blues Walked Out Of The Salt Lake Stadium With Three Points, And The Reason, As Cuadrat Pointed Out, Was An Evening In August When His Men Were Outdone By A Side In Catalonia…

To cut a long biblical narrative short and allay any fears of this being a sermon to be consumed from the church pews, Abraham was a fearless father who didn’t blink at a command from God to sacrifice his only son on an altar, with the belief that something good would come out of it. With his boy bound on logs of wood, Abraham raised his knife only to be halted by an angel who had seen enough and more of the man’s willingness to take an extreme step.

Eons later and miles away from Jerusalem, Carles Cuadrat wasn’t going to let any intervention – divine or otherwise – stop him from bringing down the dagger on his boys at the Mini Estadi. His rather elaborate speech in the dressing room was laden with encouragement, but ended with three damning words – “we must suffer”. Then he stood and watched his team do exactly that – suffer.

Barcelona B’s version of the quintessential Indian birthday party gimmick of ‘passing the parcel’, was one with a wicked twist. They understood the idea of moving the object to the guy next to you rapidly, alright. They just didn’t seem to fancy stopping the music, the controls of which were in their hand. It was a ginormous rondo that ten people in the middle of the circle could do nothing about.

The evening ended 3-0 in favour of the Catalans. It was always going to. The Blues could have done well to dig themselves an extra nostril or two, or three given the battle they were waging with breath. Water was lapped up like a drought had been forecast, and everyone’s longing gaze was directed at the masseur. The exhaustion within was far greater.

On Wednesday at the Salt Lake Stadium where Blues got the job done yet again, Cuadrat, for the first time, singled out that evening of torment in Barcelona as the reason why Bengaluru were leaving Kolkata with all three points. It won’t be the last time he refers to it. The boss saw his men go down and then spark a revival with two strikes that we will, at some point in the piece, vainly attempt to describe while we battle to hold back the drool.

Cuadrat, as you would guess, spent the better part of his pre-game analysis on set-pieces. There was no hint of fluorescent highlights on the slides but the fact that the boss kept having the analyst rewind the routines showed how much getting the ball in the back of the net from a dead-ball situation meant to the Spaniard. The Blues ended the night with two goals from set-pieces, but what meant more to Cuadrat was the way his men protected their slender lead through to the final whistle.

With their backs against the wall and the prospect of a third defeat at home staring them in the face, Lanza and his cronies decided to throw everything at Bengaluru, the kitchen sink included. Also throwing stuff, mostly himself, was a familiar Englishman. The boys swear they refused to look at his face, worrying that bedlam might ensue. Paartalu and Johnson shared a hotel room when the Blues were last in Kolkata, but the two found themselves vying for the same ball and in different shirts this time. Juanan and Johnson were once again in the same box, next to each other. Just that the causes they were fighting for, were different.

When the Spaniard made his move to India, it was Johno who had taken him out to explore Bengaluru. Long after cameras had stopped recording and journalists had sent in their copies, Juanan made his way down to the ATK dressing room with his BFC shirt in hand, for his former defensive partner. He had to leave it with an official as the team had boarded the bus. Later that night, we were on the receiving end when Johnson sent his shirt to the Blues’ team hotel. Football and these stories!

Every ball rolled across the face of the goal was put away by a Bengaluru shirt. The boys, who swapped their usual white kit on travels for an all-green outfit to raise awareness for a cleaner environment, were getting their hands (and more) dirty. Because trees and three points are both vital. And for every time ATK chose to launch from the wings, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu would leap high and gobble the ball up. The energy drink brand that promises to hand you bird-like abilities, did really well in signing Sandhu as an ambassador.

In having the reserve sides of Barcelona and Villarreal as opponents on their pre-season roster, Bengaluru were playing with fire. Weren’t pre-season games meant to be a striker’s haven where hat-tricks against weaker opponents are racked up so they can walk into the season with a gait that commands authority? Not for Bengaluru. Not for Cuadrat. Spain in the summer wasn’t going to be about siestas and sunbaths. It was going to be about suffering.

About those two goals, who are we fooling in trying to describe them? We’ll just say that Paartalu’s stunner came on the one night when Miku would have one to outdo it.

Thank God for highlights!

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