BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 03: An FC Barcelona supporter throws a traditional catalan hat 'barretina' to Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on May 3, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Welcome to the one match in the year that lately has left everyone disgusted with football. The clasico match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid has lately been marred in controversy and accusations that have given every fan and pundit alike, something to talk about. It has divided the "neutral" fan into clear and polarized camps as well. Thus even though this weekends Super Copa match is once again being promoted as the game to see and a must watch, let be realistic about it for once shall we?
Expect a hard fought, ugly match, that will leave the looser angry and the victor unable to enjoy the victory without controversy tarnishing it.
So how can I be so sure that this clasico won't be different? That it won't actually be a nice game of football to watch, irrespective of who wins it? Simple, because every match that seems to generate an atmosphere that puts two opposing fan bases together always puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the coaches to win. More so when we speak of such a traditional rivalry as is Barcelona vs. Real, it generates an atmosphere of having to win at all cost. Having to win at all cost means anything and everything goes, if you have to injure someone, do it. If you have to cheat, do it. If the fans aren't pleased, they are the loosing teams fans because yours are happy you won. If you win, even in controversy, the victory is all that matters. The tragic part about all this is that it's acceptable because the fans accept it. Ask any Real fan and most won't care how a victory is achieved as long as Barcelona is defeated. To any Barcelona fan, a Real Madrid in the agony of defeat is the sweetest sight. If you ask in Spain for one fan base to say something positive about the other, your asking the wrong crowd. Catalan's are naturally hostile against Castillian Spaniards for events of the Spanish Civil war in which their heritage, which FC Barcelona is a part of, was put down by the Spanish government in Madrid. Castillians naturally feel superior to Catalans because of historical events in Spain and in the success Real enjoyed in the past because it is considered the premier and true, Spanish club. This nationalistic association thus sets the tone for the Clasico's of this modern time. In this time when Barcelona is considered the best side on the planet, a traditional power house that is Real Madrid sees it's legacy in danger and to reverse this change, a bullion of a small nation, has been squandered on a squad to challenge Barcelona and take back it's rightful place as the head of Spanish football. These squad will not back down for anything because there is pride, nationalism, bragging rights, and money at stake, need I name more vices? This is the perspective of the fans, the attitude of the media and coaches involved are even more cynical.
Never have coaches come to fighting words in a press conference and never has any coach been so hurt by defeat as to develop his own conspiracy theory as to why he looses except of course, in a Clasico. Pep Guardiola used quite colorful and explicit language to describe Mourinho's jab at him due to last years Copa Del Rey, in which Jose defeated Barcelona. Guardiola then managed to all but ensure Mourinho an embarrassing slap in the face when his Barcelona emerged from the Bernabeu with a 2-0 victory and Real Madrid all but out of the Champions League. Mourinho quickly resorted to accusations of conspiracy and favoritism, and named all the examples of matches in which he thinks, Barcelona where shows support by outside powers. So why am I even mentioning this? Because these are fighting words, and this Clasico business is a grudge match between two very egotistical individuals. It's a fight of two philosophies and two very distinct ways of playing the game. In a fight who really talks their way out nicely? It's usually trash talk and a punch and this game will be no different. These two will have a point to prove and won't back down by any means. Mourinho wants revenge and Guardiola wants to assert his dominance as the top dog of Spanish football and what a better place to prove who is the better man than with another trophy to fight for.
Lastly then are the media who all but help fuel the fires of hate among the fans and all people across the world who watched these games. After last years proceedings every pundit who watched these games had an extremely polarized and biased view of what they think happened, but none where able to explain actually why it happened. An objective view was all but trashed and what emerged where the following views. To a person who supported Real, what was propagated by the media outlets to them was that Barcelona are all divers, that they intentionally dived to get Real Madrid players expelled and that they won through favoritism from UEFA officials. Mourinho was championed as a hero and a brave man for standing up for what was obviously a conspiracy against all opposing Barcelona and that at last someone had said what was plainly obvious, that Barcelona was buying matches. To Barcelona fans the view was that Mourinho and his gang of ruffians only came out with the intention to hurt their players because they are incapable of winning a match without resorting to on field assaults. Thus Barcelona always demonstrated a superior and pure tactical plan in which they came out to prove that they are the best by playing and not by kicking the opposition, into submission. Mourinho rightfully lost because unlike Spain, where as Guardiola said, he rules the media and his clout is influential, UEFA actually stood up to Mourinho's gang and upheld the regulations of the game.
These views point away from the root of the problem and focus on what happens. But where does the root of the problem lie and what needs to change to actually make a Clasico a good match once more? It starts in fact out of the control of everyone mentioned on the list. It starts in the minds of the players on the pitch, if they actually believe what their coaches say and if they really don't care how they win. Basically if they are blinded enough by their respective belief as to actually hate the oppositions fans and players and to go out and achieve the victory at all cost, irrespective of what anyone says. This happens for the only reason that I can think of and that is, because these players aren't thinking about pleasing any of us fans, they are egotistical themselves and all they want is personal glory for themselves and then disguise it as being for their fans, for their coach, and for their clubs. If we fans like what we see that's a plus but if we don't, they know we'll still be pleased with what they've won since at the end of the day we ourselves are partisans. There is no incentive to really please us and give us a good show, and when playing, they largely forget about that because in order to play effectively and without worry you have to think you play for no one but yourself, that your not playing to please anyone but yourself. Though you and I may care about nationalism, teams, pride, and other travesties, none of us can actually be the idol of a nation, of a fan base, of a club, but these people can and that is what they want to achieve. To be the center of the world you have to be a winner and to a footballer being the best is first, everything comes second.
Inside the pitch there is also three men that can really affect a match and decide if they will have a clean game or let the madness evolve. In the last four clasico this writer has not seen any good officials call this match. What we witness are officials who are totally unable to objectively call a match because out of fear of accusations that will be levied against them after the game. They fear giving cards for uncalled for challenges and often let players get out of control because they think twice if its the right call to make. They are mislead by players in believing that they are really hurt and therefore dishing out punishment on the opposition which they are later criticized for. There is no way to make an objective call, in the mind of a Clasico referee is always the though of "what if", what if it's the wrong call. With such a man always under the scrutiny of millions of fans the pressure is immense and every right decision is the wrong one to others. How can such a game thus be called fairly without any objections? Simply it can't , but unless they find a person who is brave enough to make the calls according to the book, meaning no fuss and a card for every stupid thing, this match and these squad won't clean up their acts for a long time to come. It's to early to tell what new controversy this Clasico will be submersed in but be on the lookout for it. Expect more of the same, unless the man in charge says that this time it'll all be played fair. But one thing is for sure, this Clasico will be a fight and the hype surrounding it as a good match of football is all a lie, in fact the Clasico has produced some of the worst matches ever to be played in the past months.
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