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Chapel Thrill

For those who wonder why so many soccer players celebrate by pointing their fingers towards Heaven…

Soccer (or football) is known as the beautiful game. As a lifelong player and fan, I can and will attest to this description with the power of a thousand suns.

Like many sports, our personal favorite(s) often reveal a philosophical belief in how we go about life on a daily basis. The specific strategy, urgency, patience, necessities, rewards, setbacks, effort and so forth of any sport can typically be closely translated into how we view our work, jobs and the complexities of our personal lives.

The following segment from a 60 Minutes interview with FC Barcelona star Gerard Piqué from 2013 struck something inside me as a viewer, a soccer player/fan and a Christian. During the time of this interview, FC Barcelona was regarded as the best soccer club in the world. With all the star power in its starting eleven and the fanfare surrounding this team in Catalonia, take a look at what the designers of the Camp Nou believed was a must-have in the walkway from the locker room to the world famous pitch.

Despite not being a Barça fan, the chapel in Camp Nou showcases (in its uniquely intimate, off-to-the-side kind of way) the link many soccer players have when it comes to their belief in God as it pertains to the beautiful game.

That’s living and embracing the beautiful game on and off the pitch.

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“Three is a Magic Number”

Imagine that you are a fan and patron of the ballet (just for a few minutes). You enjoy watching ballerinas, with their beauty and striking features, effortlessly glide across the stage in amazement. When a new show is set to premiere a short run at the gorgeous theater downtown, the question is not if you will see the show, but only when.

The lights go down to a glow when the audience sees the curtain rise and soon after comes the first leg movement. The vivid string music picks up a second later. Enchantment fills the air. The next two hours are filled with grace and inspiring strength, as demonstrated by a ballerina’s grand jeté. The drama or sometimes adventure, with a few moments of comedic relief, captures everybody’s attention. The audience is rewarded with such a wonderful and tight performance that a standing ovation is not an optional exercise.

Bravo! Bravo!

Another night and another show defined by smooth, world-class movements. They took the crowd through a journey of delight and precision. The latter word alludes to the fact that the ballet is a defined and confined art in many ways, yet that is exactly what keeps fans coming back for more. In other words, they are meticulous about what they expect.

But, what if the rumors are true and a new choreographer is set to be hired? Nothing drastic is set to occur, but his reputation is one that demands his dancers be more free flowing. In the strict world of ballet, there are very few exceptions for bending the rules.

It is, ironically, an uncomfortably comfortable art. There are assigned movements and a familiarity (sometimes painful) that becomes second nature to the trained and dedicated professional. It’s not so much about thinking what to do next when dancing in front of the bright lights, but instead it’s about reacting to the music and partners on stage.

This could be a risky move to change a structure so beloved and rich in history and tradition. And yet, the day has been set for when the new choreographer will arrive. His reputation is one of excitement, degrees of unpredictability and all with quicker movement between dancers. The quickened pace will add dynamism that can be difficult to predict, both for those doing and watching. Some long-held beliefs on this ballet stage will be redefined. There will undoubtedly be curiosity and anxiousness.

Outside reviews declared their audiences were “mesmerized” by his adaptations to the traditional ballet. Each ballerina performed with more movements en avant and with a splendid final allegro. It’s new and exciting.

Nobody is exactly sure what to expect.

This past Wednesday, it became official that 41 year-old Pep Guardiola had signed a three-year contract to become the next head coach at Bayern Munich starting this July to replace the outgoing 67 year-old Jupp Heynckes.

“He is an adventurous and attacking coach, who fits at a club that shows guts,” Arjen Robben said.

Pep used his own Tiki-taka strategy at Barcelona from 2008-2012. This team won just a few top-shelf accolades (14 trophies) and also showcased the likes of Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and David Villa. Despite the contradiction, this team continues to move and play with a precise fluidity. It is very impressive to witness.

The style of soccer at Bayern Munich is not exclusively defined by structure, discipline and toughness (& winning quite frankly), but are nonetheless paramount factors. There are players who exercise tremendous flare and skill of course, as is evidenced by a Dutchman (Arjen Robben), a Frenchman (Franck Ribéry) and a Weilheim Winger (German Thomas Müller). Possession with world-class individual play is on full display during any given game. However, their passing is not typically accompanied with as much misdirection as is used by the players at Barcelona.

How much of their style will change?

Bayern Munich has won seemingly countless German Football Championships and four UEFA Champions League Titles. They are no stranger to success and winning. But a new coach and a new style is about to reign in Munich.

There will be two firsts come this July. First, the Tiki-taka philosophy will be implemented or adapted with the current players, plus perhaps a couple future big name signings.

A Tiki-taka Tutorial:

Second, Guardiola will become the first Spanish manager of this club dating all the way back to when Bayern Munich entered the Bundesliga nearly fifty years ago in 1965.

Changes are coming and even though they will not alter the very game itself, they are going to be significant. The dance of “the beautiful game” in the capital city of Bavaria will be different from what has been seen there before. While world-class talent will remain along with each individual’s offensive and defensive prowess, the way they move will adjust and how they use their skills at certain moments will have new and spontaneous variety.

There are certain expectations fans of Bayern Munich will want to transition from its previous coaching regimes. But with such a banner hire, the team will look more distinctive compared to years past.

Much like at the ballet, the audience has very particular expectations. Soccer is similar in the sense that its fans demand to be constantly entertained with superior defending, speed, dribbling, passing, shooting, toughness and intelligence. Soccer is “the beautiful game” and its fans are not shy about expressing their support or disappointment to what they see on the pitch…every other minute.

Unlike the ballet, soccer is a physical sport that involves contact and some occasional rough play. Its atmosphere is more lively, less formal and sees more vocal reactions from fans of all ages. And yet the intention of this post is to point out surprising correlations between two contrasting professions.

As with the ballet, soccer fans can be tentative to remove an “Old Guard” for something new.

We’ll all just have to wait and see if Bayern Munich’s faithful will embrace a little “Pep” in their step.