North Korea claims to have tested a nuclear weapon “as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb” today (May 25). The force of the blast created an earthquake that measured 4.5 on the richter scale, and was felt as far away as the Chinese border, 130 miles away. Analysts say the test could be both a sign that there is a battle for succession underway in Pyongyang, and that N. Korea is ready to lash out in anger while in the throes of internal turmoil.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Pakistani military is involved in street-by-street battles in Mingora, the main city of the Swat district, as it battles to finally eradicate the Swat Taliban as a militant force in the once scenic valley. The battle in Swat, in many ways, is a battle for the state of Pakistan as we know it.

What we need to ask ourselves, really, is do we care about these things?

Hell no.

The Champions League final is just two days away, and all we really want in our lives is some cracking football. Thankfully, it appears that we will get just that when FC Barcelona, the champions of Spain, meet Manchester United, the champions of . . err . . that little island country, that’s a little north of France. What’s it called, again? England?

More than a football match between two champions, however, this is a bout between two different philosophies of football. The FC Barcelona way, to bring up youth through the ranks, to be not just a football club but an institution, and to constantly Receive, Pass, Offer; and the Manchester Utd way, which ostensibly involves paying large amounts of money to bring talented young stars to the club so that they can blossom into egotistical divas.

Ok, I may be letting my feelings get in the way a little, here.

But make no mistake about it, Manchester Utd are a formidable club, and they are in incredible form this season. Sir Alex Ferguson has really crafted an incredibly talented squad through the years, even if most of the players haven’t come through his own club’s youth system (only O’Shea of the probable Wednesday night starters has, actually). They are a top defensive outfit, and can attack in a variety of ways. The squad includes a mix of hard workers, strong forwards, talented divas and, of course, rock solid defenders in Ferdinand and Vidic (the best defensive partnership in Europe at the moment, bar none).

Barca, in contrast, is almost entirely composed of players who have come through the youth system, many of whom, including Messi, have never been at another club, and will likely begin and end their illustrious careers at the Camp Nou. Barca do not attack so much as flow across the pitch. They concentrate on possession footbal, quick passes and holding onto the ball at all costs. They are defensively suspect, particularly against set pieces, and this, more than anything, has been the weakness in the side over the years. Barca, however, has never had a particularly strong defence; the difference this year, however, is how hard everyone is working when they don’t have the ball, to cover ground, to hassle attackers and to get it back quickly. It’s this energy on the pitch that means that they can afford to have a weaker defence, because everyone is constantly switched on, constantly working hard, leaving the opposition with little time on the ball.

But more than any of that, more than the statistics, more than the facts that you’ve seen on every blog between here and Timbuktu (that’s in Mali, you philistines), is this: Wednesday sees a clash between Art and Power.
Art, having done away with Strength in the semis, perhaps rightly thinks this might just be its year.

– el kapitan

Stay tuned to The Offside Trap for more pre-Champions League final festivities. It is rumoured that SP may even complete a post without getting down on his knees and worshipping Clarence Seedorf (but don’t count on it).