Bernardo M. Villegas
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Teach Unselfishness

           Euphoric is too weak a word to describe my emotional state in the wee hours of the morning   last May 13 when FC Barcelona finally disposed of the champion of Bundesliga, FC Bayern, in the 2015 semifinals of the Champions League.  Waking up at 2:45 a.m. was well worth it.  As a die-hard fan of the Barca team led by Messi, Neymar and Suarez, I had the double satisfaction of seeing the Catalan booters move closer to a treble during this current season while at the same time seeing my favorite Catalan coach Pep Guardiola save face by having his German team win the second leg of the semifinals 3 to 2.  I am forever grateful to Pep for having led Barca to a record crop of six league titles (the maximum that can be won in any given season) in 2011.  I doubt whether this accomplishment can ever be equaled by any club in the future.  Only Barca can do it.  Who knows this season: from the treble to the three other trophies possible.  I do not think it is an exaggeration for some commentators to describe FC Barcelona as the best football club ever and Lionel Messi as the best football player ever.

          Forgive my very biased views.  My interest in football goes much beyond the enjoyment of watching “the beautiful game.”  As an educator, my interest goes deep into values formation or character training of the youth as they are exposed to the Barca style of playing.   The first virtues that are highlighted in this season’s performance of FC Barcelona are perseverance and tenacity.  Let me quote from sports writer in IBTIMES, Jason Le Miere:  “Having never previously done so in 109 years of existence, Barcelona could land a clean sweep of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles twice in six seasons.  That looked highly unlikely at the start of January (2015) when Barcelona returned from the winter break by going down to Real Sociedad to precipitate a plunge into a seemingly full-blown crisis.  Leading members of the club’s hierarchy departed, while the relationship between the coach and the greatest player in the club’s history, Lionel Messi, appeared on the verge of being beyond repair.  But as Barcelona ousted Bayern to progress with a degree of comfort on Tuesday those memories were a long way from the mind.  The date is now set for Berlin on June 6, when Barcelona will play not only for the Champions League title but quite possible for the treble.”  The players of coach Luis Enrique were not daunted by all their tribulations (including some injuries) during the first months of this year.  As late as February, Barcelona were four points behind Real Madrid, its arch rival in the Spanish league.  The turning point was at the Barcelona stadium Camp Nou last March 22 when Enrique’s men won the famous El Clasico, the most profitable football match in the world.  I was lucky that I was in Barcelona on that day in an investment road show.  I celebrated with my Catalan friends with their famous champagne drink called cava!  Last May 18 (Manila time), Barca clinched the La Liga title for the seventh time in ten years by defeating Atletico de Madrid in the latter’s home stadium.  Two more to go:  Copa del Rey on May 31 and Champions League on June 7!

          The other virtue that especially young people can learn from the Barca team is unselfishness.  In the last ten games of Barca with different teams that I watched dutifully early in the morning (Manila time), I have heard the word “unselfish” at least ten times from the commentators.  “How unselfish for Luis Suarez to pass to Neymar!  How unselfish for Messi to pass to Neymar or Suarez!  How unselfish for Neymar to pass to Luis Suarez!”  The most dramatic example was in the second leg of the semifinals between Barca and Bayern.  During the last five minutes of the match, Neymar had the opportunity to do a hat trick.  He was right in front of the goal.  But he wanted the goalless Messi to score a point and instead passed the ball to the Argentinian, who unfortunately was blocked by a Bayern defender.  The commentator gushed “How unselfish!”  Because of the outstanding values demonstrated by the Barca players (including the characteristic ritual of Messi making the sign of the cross and pointing towards heaven every time he scores a goal), it is no wonder that a foundation established by Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires has signed a memorandum with the FC Barcelona Club Foundation to promote values and virtues through football all over the world.  I am making sure that with some of the local NGOs involved in spreading the football culture in the Philippines, especially among street children, we can also benefit from the help of FC Barcelona (through the local club Team Socceroo) in teaching unselfishness among Filipinos.  This can go a long way in preparing future generations of professionals and workers who will know the value of team spirit and cooperation in whatever organizations they will be working.   For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia