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FC Barcelona: Conspiracy? Bah Humbug

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Everytime I find myself with a need to write, which at this point is usually once a week, I usually spend 5 days thinking about a topic and doing the necessary research. A part of that process of writing includes watching videos on youtube which I find, inspires me, especially when it involves writing about players like Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi etc. Today is not one of those days.

Today, I have the job of writing about a subject that although, unpleasant, has to be done. I guess it's two subjects that wouldn't be fused together if I were in a good mood but I'm not. The first has to do with penalties (or lack thereof) awarded to Barca players, or, Lionel Messi in particular.

The statistics show that since Florentino Perez was re-elected president (2009), Real Madrid were awarded 23 penalties as opposed to 8 given to FC Barcelona in the same period. So now that the numbers are established, I guess it would only be fair if i stated that penalties awarded to Real Madrid should not matter to us Cules. However, the reason I mention it is because the same referee who awarded Cristiano Ronaldo a penalty for a foul outside the box, failed to penalize an obvious foul on Messi inside the penalty area (against Sporting). Alright, human error can explain that and I'll accept it as a part and parcel of the game.

Real madrid fouls against Barcelona.wmv (via Miskat80)

What I'm trying to say is, where is the common sense that should be used by any referee? It's easy to see that certain players from both teams have a reputation that is embarrassing to their respective clubs. But for all the accusations of conspiracies that Cules have to endure from the Spanish capital side and more importantly, Jose Mourinho, nobody can deny that a player like Angel Di Maria should be given a nickname, say, "The Floppin' Fish?".

Lionel Messi has nothing in common with Floppy except for his nationality does he? Sure, he was awarded a yellow card for an alleged dive earlier in the season (do you guys think he dived? Looked like a clear foul to me) and was not awarded a penalty last week. La Pulga, to his credit, has an impeccable reputation as far as footballers and forwards are concerned. Unlike his, almost as famous, Portuguese counterpart in Madrid, he has worked hard to make sure that diving is not a part of his game. If anything, I believe that is the one area where La Pulga is actually inferior to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi never dive... (via neticool)

Allow me to elaborate. Cristiano, from what I have seen, has improved since his Manchester United days. He does not dive as much and probably doesn't need to since pretty much every defender in Spain is looking to stop him at any cost. He is prone to the odd slip every now and then, especially against defences that are hard to break (that and I'm sure he doesn't want Floppy to forget who's Boss). The point is, every defender out there also knows that you cannot afford to kick Ronaldo and hope to get away with it. If they so much as show him their cleats ("Oye, what do you think of these boots eh?! Nice?) before the game has started, he would probably be willing to fake an epileptic fit. You see, it's like swimming, once you've learnt it, you just cannot forget. Now that he's got his bad habit under control, he has in many ways ensured that defenders stick to the rules. Messi, however, isn't as lucky. They kick him and tug at his badly designed Nike shirt till all that excess sweat, which the players are complaining about, is squeezed out and yet the referees seem to be as blind as Tito Vilanova (I'll get to that later)

So what happened to the human factor? After all if human error is acceptable and referee's are allowed to make mistakes, then why can't these same referees take into account the player being fouled or the player committing the foul? I am not saying they should be partial about it, and if Mourinho is to be believed, then only Barcelona are the benefactors of human error. Yet, the discrepancy in penalties or fouls awarded is frightening. The El Clasico is a prime example of that. Sure, Dani Alves might be prone to theatrics, but if any neutral were to see the number of fouls Pepe and Marcelo get away with (please, don't tell me elbowing is fair) I'm beginning to think that it would be in Dani's best interests to fall and and risk that yellow instead of having his nose broken. It is a touchy subject and where does one draw the line? I am totally averse to diving or cheating in any manner, but I'm not sure if it's very healthy to keep getting kicked and elbowed and still refuse to fall. To each his own, but are you ready to lose the best player on the planet to injury cause the opponent exploits the ineptitude of the referee?

If human error is a part of the game that we, as fans, have to accept then why can't they insert a little common sense and know that Messi does not dive. It isn't in his nature. Ronaldo does not need to either but Di Maria?? Floppy is the kind of player that makes me wonder about this game that I'm obsessed about. Here is a player with all the talent in the world and yet, he chooses to suffer a convenient coronary every time a defender even thinks about putting a challenge in. The irony of it all is that Cristiano Ronaldo is fast becoming one of the few Madrid players I'm beginning to admire (I'm a fan of Iker Casillas btw) because of how excruciatingly annoying his team mates are. Kudos to him I guess, but that doesn't change the fact that the referee's in Spain are weak and the longer they let people get away with incidents like the ones occurred in the Clasicos, the more strength they give to Mourinho and his manipulation of the media. Pre-match rants and complaints about the referee is nothing but clever tactic to influence the officials. Referees have a thankless job but things have to change, soon.

Moving on, let’s revisit (Ugh) Jose-Por Que-Mourinho and his antics. After the Spanish Supercopa matches, and the attempt at blinding Barca's assistant manager, the Madrid coach went on to tell the media that he had no idea who Tito Vilanova was. I guess Tito's eye just happened to swirl around and fall on Mourinho's finger. Can you believe that I'm beginning to miss the good ol' days when Mourinho just talked and wasn't into physically assaulting the opponent? I'm digressing, after the Supercopa game the RFEF finally (and I thought the Indian Government was slow) decided to look into it from a legal point. Allow me to give you some perspective on the Vilanova's-eye-falling-on-Mourinho's-finger incident. Mixed martial arts, a controversial sport in the United States, does not allow eye gouging. A violent sport that allows your opponent to hit a fighter even if he's on the floor, Mixed Martial Arts is scary and right up there with Ice hockey, Rugby etc as far as injuries are concerned. Yet, the rules forbid eye gouging and any fighter found to have violated the rules receives an automatic disqualification and is suspended. It's the same with Rugby, where there are cases of players being suspended for eye gouging an opponent.

But the RFEF decided that Mourinho only deserved a two match ban (restricted to only Spanish Supercopa games) and a 600 Euro fine. Tito Vilanova was given a one match ban (Spanish supercopa) and the same fine. A week back, if anybody had asked me what kind of punishment Mourinho deserved, I would have said "anything below a 5 match ban would have been a huge disappointment and an embarrassment to Spanish football. 8-12 matches sounds about fair. Maybe 5-10 games with a huge fine?" The question of restricting the ban to only the Spanish Supercopa did not even enter my mind. Halve the ban and punish Tito with the same and it would have been okay but 2 matches? Are you serious? Do they not realise the consequences of their actions? I know Mourinho doesn't, even if he thinks otherwise. This has gone beyond Mourinho, Pep, Tito or the two clubs. There are a few million fans of both clubs in Spain alone and not all of them look at this as just a sport. Sure, all of us love Barca and our colleagues over at Managing Madrid worship Madrid but we are a small part of it.

Worse still, the RFEF justified the sentence by saying "he didn't look like he intended to hurt Tito Vilanova". Say What???? So if a person were to stab somebody and it just ended up being a small cut, then it's alright? That might be overly dramatic but you get the point.

With that one act of aggression and the RFEF's lack of cajones, violence is now overlooked and it’s akin to putting up a banner saying "Go ahead mates, lynching is back in fashion and anything goes". I am extremely happy to see that none of the Madrid fans I know, support or condone Mourinho's moment of insanity and the very few, who are predominantly fans of English clubs and Madrid sympathisers have decided against it and couldn't help but express their disgust. I had to listen to a lot of trash talk about Spanish football and the referees and how England is so much better but at least they didn't try to justify Mourinho's acts.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have obvious ulterior motives to the statement below but bear with me: I now, more so than ever before, really hope that Madrid don't win anything this year, under the assumption that if they go trophy-less this season, the pressure will mount on Perez to axe Jose Mourinho. It is in our best interests, as Cules, that Madrid is always competitive and I hope that by this time next year, they have a coach with some class and that we can look back on all this, laugh and enjoy a real Clasico.

A quote that Mourinho should live by:

"I represent an institution and in the newsrooms I respect everyone. It does not cost anything to behave with education."- Josep "Pep" Guardiola I Sala.

Your friendly neighbourhood Indian,

Inder Methil.

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