Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Barca's Stroll in the Park

Football may not save lives, stop wars (permanently), or raise the dead, but for an hour last night it did something no less remarkable: it stopped traffic in New York City.

The event was an FC Barcelona "light workout session." As you'll see in the pics, the players had just wanted to go for a run and stretch ahead of tonight's charity event and Wednesday's friendly with the Red Bulls at Giants Stadium. It was all very much under the radar, excepting the 150-deep Catalan press crush, and per UF's resident police source, Sgt. (ret.) Peter Meehan, conceived in the simplest terms: the lads needed a jog, so why not Central Park?

Where would the miracles end? Indeed, for the better part of 15 minutes, at Central Park's North Meadow Park, The Likely Lad and a retired NYPD sergeant enjoyed a chat about the game, the department's barnstorming football division, and even some Major League Soccer.

Sgt. Meehan, a left back on the pitch, at no point threatened to arrest me or issue a citation, and if he had any mind to beat my ass senseless just cos he could, the sarge kept it well concealed-- better, say, than his colleague's pistol. (If there's anything more terrifying than Carles Puyol's face, it's a plainclothes cop with a gun on his hip.)

The festivities began at about 6:15 on the outfield grass of one of the park's western-most softball diamonds. And though it wasn't quite The Beatles on the Roof, the crowd grew as the session went on, and by the time the players were exchanging shirts with the NYPD team, there were a sizable crowd of Barca fans crowding the security perimeter.

The Sarge wouldn't tell me long they'd had to plan, but promised that there was considerable surveillance. If anything happened to one of these guys, he said, "it'd be an international incident." Fair enough, though perhaps a bit overconfident. They had, after all, allowed a known Spurs fan just inches from Thierry Henry.

It may appear that "Titi" is reaching down to sign a football for a young fan, but I assure you that he is in fact stealing the boy's lollipop with his left hand and fondling him with the right. It was an old trick the frenchman learned "with the mister, back in ze Monaco team."

The only people not surprised by the timing/location/general loveliness of the evening were the Catalan press. They, like most of the players, were equally unnerved and confused by the softball game on the adjacent field. What began as curious interest turned to fear after a foul ball scattered a camera crew. Abidal in particular was horrified by the ladies' softball... you'd think he was watching a pack of lemurs feast on babies' feet.


"They ran for a bit, stretched too, then Americans chased them up the park!"

A Hard Day's Night

IMPRESSED... (the Sarge and Mr. David Villa, who explained his unauthorized presence behind enemy lines simply, "I'm friends with Xavi!" "Shabby? This is fun." "Yes, Xavi!" "Ok. Smile!"

Doin' it fer the kids


Mr. David Villa was a sneaky fucker. He was all over the place, even without the precious pass for which I so carefully connived. Below you can see him setting up to drop a bag over Puyol's head.

A bit more background before I dump out the rest of the picture album...

The workout was arranged in concert with the NYPD Soccer club, which travels around the world on their own dime to play games and do humanitarian work. The Sarge was very serious on this point and if you visit their website (linked up top) you can get an idea of the excellent stuff they do.

As a little kicker, the cops even got to "exchange shirts" with the Barca boys and pose for these lovely snaps. The Barca photogs actually put out their butts for this bit. (The Likely Lad was nearly decapitated in the ensuing rush.)
Ok now, I know you stopped reading after the headline, so here's the rest of the art.

The Cops make their approach...

No No No, Zis shirt ees too small. I will bring to Arsene then for dee boyz

A Pair of European Champions...


The Layers of Modern Society... Three-deep: The Schmucks (in the background, in centerfield, and me); The Rich Men; The Muscle (paid to keep A & B apart):

Alas, There Will Be Running


The Fan's Attic said...

Neato! This was terrific. You lucky bastard.

The NY Kid said...

I hate you.

Lingering Bursitis said...

This now makes for 3 members of UF who have met/been close to Thierry... with every encounter, NY Kid gets more enraged. I shall look forward to seeing him tomorrow night as well!

The Fan's Attic said...

If the NY Kid ever got that close to Titi, he would be engorged and no longer enraged.

The Likely Lad said...

dude. gross.

The NY Kid said...

But true.

Andrew said...

Funny how this shit never happens in Tampa . . . or Daytona.

/Florida is fucking terrible.

Bigus Dickus said...

Nice job Likely..

Precious Roy said...

Re: the second pick.

Must suck to be Eto'o and not get to travel with the team. No wonder he was considering a move to Uzbekistan.

Autoglass said...

Well done, LL. But someday, you will meet Kanarek... Be afraid.