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The beautiful (exhibition) game

It was Pele who referred to soccer as “the beautiful game.” Last night I had the pleasure of attending a match that lived up to this billing. The match, at RFK stadium in Washington D.C., featured two giants of European football, Barcelona and reigning European champs, A.C. Milan. Exhibition matches between teams of this calibre tend to show soccer at its best. Players have no fear of losing, so they play with great flair. And defenders who are about to be beaten don’t always feel compelled to foul their tormenter as he flies by. That was the case last night. In the first half, I sat behind Milan’s goal and marvelled at the exquisite, silky skills of Barcelona’s Javier Saviola (Argentina), Ronaldinho (Brazil), Marc Overmars (Holland), and Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal). This international quartet shredded A.C. Milan’s vaunted defense, led by Italian superstars Maldini and Nesta. In the second half, Milan launched a furious assault on Barcelona’s substitute, but Barcelona held on thanks to spectacular goalkeeping and some luck.
The final result was Barcelona 2, A.C. Milan 0. Unfortunately, if they play again, say in March, the result will probably be 0-0 with Milan winning on penalty kicks. Here is the Washington Post’s account of the match.

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