La Liga is back! And the problems, too. Not all the problems are of equal weight but they all add up to making the Spanish league look bad.
Let’s start with the most serious - racism. Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior was the subject of racist attacks during their match against Real Valladolid, which prompted the player to complain on social media.
“Racists continue to go to stadiums and watch the biggest club in the world up close and LaLiga continues to do nothing,” he said.
The president of La Liga followed that up with a tone-deaf response.
“In LaLiga, we’ve been fighting against racism for years,” Tebas wrote on Twitter.
“@Vinicius Junior, it is unfortunate, unfair and not true to publish that LaLiga doesn’t do anything against racism. Inform yourself better. We are at your disposal so that all together, we can go in the same direction.”
Such a statement is tone deaf when racism continues to be a problem of this magnitude, and it doesn’t seem like there’s been much progress for a long time.
Sadly the racist incidents are not new and have affected players from just about every team. Dani Alves memorably ate a banana thrown at him in a racist taunt playing for FC Barcelona against Villarreal, and that was nearly 9 years ago now. That was hardly the first time, either, as it’s been an ongoing problem as far back as anyone can remember. It doesn’t seem like the problem has gotten substantially better in the past few years.
On another front, there is the Robert Lewandowski situation. The Polish striker was given a three-match ban after touching his nose and pointing to the referee, which he says was a signal to his manager, but the ref took as an offensive gesture.
Many pundits considered the punishment excessive, so Barcelona appealed it. The appeal went nowhere within the Spanish federation, but it an ordinary court, not affiliated with the federation, did find it persuasive enough to order it be frozen pending a final decision. While this was outside the federation’s control, it did make for a bizarre situation in which Lewandowski did not receive even the automatic one match ban for a red card. The suspension, between one and three matches, could still be given down by the court but at the moment Lewandowski could play.
The court could have handed down a decision at any point over the past month or so, as domestic matches were suspended due to the FIFA World Cup. At the very least, they could have ordered for Lewandowski to serve one game suspension, pending a decision on the next two. The way it was handled was very odd.
Espanyol have complained to the Spanish FA, hoping to annul the result of the match, which ended in a draw. But it would be absurd for them to try to annul a match already played they themselves okayed due to a court order. Who knows what comes next.
The match itself showed more incompetence. The head ref, Mateu Lahoz, gave yellow cards everywhere and even a couple of reds. He lost complete control of the match in an unnecessary fashion. This comes after a similarly bad performance in the FIFA World Cup, when he was again criticized for his decisions while overseeing Argentina take on the Netherlands. The fact Lahoz continues to have performances like these, and is still thought of by the Spanish federation and league as the best ref in the country, is strange.
Overall, La Liga, the Spanish federation, and the court system have done a poor job of facing the various problems football in Spain has. That has tarnished the league’s reputation. which is quite sad when the football itself has been excellent. It seems La Liga continues to be one of the best leagues in the world, if not the best, despite itself.