In the aftermath of a tense 0-0 draw in La Liga on Saturday afternoon, Catalan rivals FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol went to battle once again last night, both figuratively and literally. While the Blaugrana emerged victorious on the night, earning an emphatic 4-1 victory at the Camp Nou to all but book their place in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals, they left the field battered, bruised and furious with Espanyol's rather "physical" approach.
Espanyol goalkeeper Pau Lopez was lucky to escape a red card for what appeared to be an intentional stamp on the leg of Argentine superstar, Lionel Messi, while his midfield colleague Papakouli Diop was in fact issued with a red card for abusive language. Tempers flared on numerous occasions during the night, and reportedly culminated in a showdown in the tunnel as a select few Barcelona players reportedly took umbrage with the events that had unfolded over the previous 90 minutes.
Oh, and sources from Espanyol claim that Luis Suarez racially abused Papakouli Diop.
The reports surfaced this morning in Catalan newspaper, Diario Sport as unnamed sources from the club claimed that Diop's red card was merely the result of him responding in kind to the slurs directed at him by the Uruguayan. Of course, Cules across social media have leapt to Suarez' defense, vehemently denying the accusations on his behalf out of... what, a bizarre misguided sense of loyalty?
In the world of Barca fandom, apparently it's OK to laugh off allegations of racist abuse by our players as pure fiction, usually as part of some grand-old conspiracy against us by pro-Madrid factions in the media. This sentiment, a view that's shared by an alarming number of Barcelona supporters, is quite frankly abhorrent and alarming -- especially in the wake of the abusive chants directed at Neymar during Saturday's draw.
Neymar himself didn't hear the offensive chants, yet the reports provoked an outcry and widespread condemnation -- and rightly so, such behaviour has no place in modern society or in football. Similarly, it is true that Papakouli Diop has not come forward to make any allegations or made any mention of abusive comments made during the game by the Uruguayan, but something made him react.
Was it racist abuse? Probably not, but the point is that we as supporters do not know what was and what wasn't said on the pitch last night -- and in the absence of proof either way, I personally would be more hesitant to give a man with Suarez' track record the benefit of the doubt just because he plays for my favourite football team...