There is a thin line between love and hate.
I hate what football has become. I loathe its ugliness, arrogance and avarice.
There is a special place in the seventh circle of Hell for its charlatans and its petty criminals.
And yet . .
I love what football can be. I recognise its beauty, its purity as the people’s game.
There is a special place in everyday life for its heroes, and even its heretics.
Saturday’s Champions League Final straddles that thin dividing line.
It is sullied by the naked greed of UEFA.
They ignore online touts charging £12,000 plus a £2160 booking fee for two together in Wembley’s top tier.
Manchester United, redefined as an investment vehicle for the Glazers, are slaves to the Yankee dollar.
Barcelona sold their soul, compromised basic beliefs, by accepting billions of Qatari Riyal.
They are rival corporations seeking new markets.
Barcelona are making a strategic push into China and the United States. They have satellite centres in Egypt, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, and Peru
United will break the £100m barrier in annual commercial income, despite Asia’s counterfeit economy.
More than 2.5million MUFC credit cards featuring Park Ji-Sung are used in Korea alone. But each club has the power of dreams.
Maybe, just maybe, their meeting will represent everything that is good about the game.
Each has its living legends, men who embody the traditions of what, in more innocent times, was known as the European Cup.
Sir Bobby Charlton has the unforced dignity of an old soldier.
His sacrifice is unspoken, uniquely powerful. His tears at Wembley in 1968 are United’s holy water. Johann Cruyff won the European Cup three times for Ajax as a player.
He managed Barcelona’s Dream Team at Wembley in 1992.
His legacy is a total footballer’s sense of style, captured by his two word team talk on that fabled night: “Enjoy it”.
This final will be shaped by tribal elders, leaders who build for the future with one eye on the past.
Sir Alex Ferguson has learned the lessons of defeat in Rome two years ago. Europe is a definitive challenge, and some suspect he will only retire happily after equalling, or exceeding, the three European Cups won by Bob Paisley.
Pep Guardiola is a different character, but no less intelligent, or driven.
He is a symbol of continuity and commitment to Barcelona’s ideals, but he is an Anglophile who may yet occupy the manger’s office at Old Trafford.
Both finalists are more than a club, mes que un club, to borrow the Catalan statement of intent. Their players are taught to understand who they are playing for, and why it matters.
Carles Puyol, a captain with a social conscience, responds with the intensity of a freedom fighter.
Eric Abidal’s remarkable recovery from cancer surgery has made him a folk hero.
Ryan Giggs is similarly cherished, because his career mirrors United’s recent development.
Youthful promise carefully nurtured. Substantial achievement sustained cleverly.
There is unforced respect between the teams, which should protect us from the shameful excesses of Barca’s semi final win over Real Madrid.
Xavi, the footballers’ footballer, hails Paul Scholes as a role model.
Lionel Messi sees a little of himself in Wayne Rooney.
I have only the vaguest memories of Wembley in 1968, watched, as a family on a boxy black and white TV.
Charlton seemed so old.
Sir Matt Busby reminded me of my Grandad.
A moment, frozen in time, acquired more meaning when I learned about Munich and the ghosts who will be a spectral presence on Saturday.
Since love is blind, I can’t wait.