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Offside Cocktail
Messi-merised and Out of Adjectives

We knew John Cena was going to make Miz quit. We knew Chennai would win the IPL, the minute we saw their owner on the high-table with the other bosses. We also knew that Jason Kidd would rise once again. But we had no idea just how badly Manchester United would be desecrated by Pep Guardiola's boys.

You saw it and we saw it. We both heard about it and we all read pages of lines dedicated to nudging Barcelona up on a pedestal we thought never existed. Therefore, a play-by-play analysis of the match would seem pretty redundant a week later. But the praises would obviously never get old. For the first 15 minutes many of us dreamed of an epic clash, even though United were dominant. After Rooney struck, we knew one more goal would take Ferguson's warriors away. Barcelona were, seemingly, on their last legs. But boy were we ever wrong.

Indeed, none of us had any idea, that Wembley would be the place where we would all witness the coming of age of possibly the greatest player to ever grace this world. Lionel Messi, at 23, leading from the front, ceaselessly and magically even, weaving between defenders, creating space and wreaking havoc on defences as usual. Pedro scored and Villa curled in a beauty, but we will all remember Messi's shot from 25m and the celebrations that followed. In that moment, we knew and Messi knew himself, that this was it. Messi, in a matter of seconds, moved up to an unattainable level of greatness, leaving behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo choking in the dust.

The 3-1 debacle raised more questions than it did proving theories. United fans justified the result, claiming this to be their worse team ever, conveniently forgetting the times they won nothing of note. In fact, United fans said this was the worst team even before the match. Was it then an act stemming out of a premonition of disaster? The most successful manager in the game today, Sir Alex, reserved all the praise for Barcelona too and had nothing more to say because the referee got every decision right. Giggs, performed miserably and that could not be explained by utterances of off-field problems. Van Der Sar marred his last game with two key mistakes, when both goals found the veteran out of position. Valencia was stifled for the better part of the game and Hernandez found himself isolated as his strike partner was busy chasing shadows. Park Ji Sung was industrious but his physical threat was negated by speed and sheer class. So, what was Ferguson thinking? Was it a resignation in the face of defeat? This wasn't United's worst team but it was their worst performance.

Pep got everything right not because he is a brilliant tactician but because his opponents feared him. United could have instead stifled Pep's midfield. Many would say the same plan back-fired for Jose Mourinho but his Real Madrid team lacks the speed, agility and play-making abilities that defensive midfielders like Anderson have. The plan would worked and Inter Milan and even Chelsea would back that up. Berbatov could have added a spark of imagination which Hernandez never possessed. And this spark was all that would be required to dismantle Mascherano. Nani would also pressure defenders with his darting runs, something Valencia could not offer. The less said about Carrick and Giggs, the better. All in all, it was a collective and spectacular failure. And bar Messi, Barcelona were no less impressive. United's frailty would also go on to explain Barcelona's wealth of possession. Where were the lion-hearted on this day?

As much as we would like to praise Pep's magical abilities, in all honesty, it boils down to this simple statement; Barcelona didn't win but Manchester United surely lost.

Photo: AFP

Last week, we had the topic Puddles. The article below was simply written, yet it conveyed the message of a sense of sorrow that sometimes befalls siblings. For next week, our topic will be: On the run. The rules are the same: submissions have to be within 500 words and sent into ds.risingstars@gmail.com before Sunday noon.


By Blue Miss

My little sister was born one fine monsoon day. During her fourth summer, she died.

She was two and a half years younger than me and, she was my best friend. I was her leader and guide. She would wipe her chocolate-covered fingers on the front of her frock the same way I did, and when I cried, she never failed to accompany me. Although these happened many years back, somehow, I have never been able to not reminisce about them.

Our backyard served as our playground. We didn't have to wait for our turn on who'd get to sit on the one archaic swing it contained. Tiny as we were, we fitted together perfectly. We'd run around on the uneven ground amongst innumerable wildflowers and weeds - chasing butterflies and having the time of our lives. During monsoons, we'd jump on the puddles.

Whenever that monster from somewhere in the sky growled, we'd know that it was about to rain. Our hearts beating almost audibly, we would laugh merrily while rushing towards our backyard; our frocks billowing in the wind and, our locks dancing. Our little round faces would be flushed with glee as we would clasp each others fingers, and spin. Once. Twice. Thrice...

No amount of our mother's persistent coaxing ever succeeded in getting us in, especially because of the background music of our father howling with laughter at our puerile idea of fun. After a while, she would give in with a smile, and the two of them would remain standing in a corner of the veranda - their hands holding steaming cups of tea, moving up and down as they took the occasional sip - watching us with amused derision.

My sister and I would then jump on the puddles - paying no heed, whatsoever, to our mother wrinkling her nose in distaste. We'd jump, jump, and JUMP! All the while loving the splashing sound that it made and, revelling in the way mud water splattered all over our clean white dresses... the smell of wet earth and the incessant pelting of the raindrops against our skin intoxicating our senses. As the heavens thundered ominously, we would hold each other tightly - deafened by our own shrill cries. Soon after, our mother would drag us in, consequently putting an end to our game and the few moments of shared sisterhood...

The disappearances of the puddles were almost simultaneous with the arrival of the scorching sun.

On her fourth summer, my sister died in an accident. I was but a child of six, but even I grieved her absence. My father stopped laughing and my mother forgot her warm winsome smile. They spoke rarely. Sometimes, when it rains, I see them staring out the window - their eyes lifeless and features betraying no emotion.

The puddles lie undisturbed.


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