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In come Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta together to the Barcelona dressing room, sitting next to each other in a corner. They have arrived early, and so both turn on their iPods. They both select the song ‘Islands’ by The xx, by coincidence, at exactly the same time.

The notes of Islands’ quirky guitar riff at the beginning are the hundreds of passes Xavi will make when they play in a few minutes time. Pum-pum-pum. Of course the notes are syncopated to confuse the opposition. The riff is repeated. The notes are ‘forever looking for space’. Here? No. There? Repeated again.

Romy Madley’s voice comes over the top as Iniesta imagines running into the space. There is time. The song has patience. There is no need to force it. At some point the voice’s melody and the guitar’s bassline will become congruent and the players will unlock the defence.

Then, fifty seconds in, something changes. A bit of space. The bassline picks a chord. Xavi picks a pass – still syncopated, but Iniesta knows this. After 65 seconds, there is a guitar line which descends down and down, almost inevitably, as the lock is slowly unpicked. The congruence of the two parts, the foundation and the event, is complete and cannot be reversed. This musical theme is repeated. The first fifty seconds do not need to be repeated.

After 140 seconds, there is the completion of the move, and after 157 seconds the ball is hit into the net with Romy Madley’s final ‘explore’. All this while both players are sitting in the dressing room listening to this song, looking directly at each other and imagining exactly the same attacking move in their heads which they will perform later. They nod their heads at each other, and quietly get changed.

By Tom Goulding, who can be found on Twitter here.

 

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