Of CHEATING, Straw Men and El Clasico

During the Clasico apocalypse, and the SuperCopa tie that followed, behind the (sometimes irrational) rage a Clasico with Jose Mourinho brings, I had a nagging sense of déjà vu. There was something in the back of my mind that was telling me there was something unconnected that was setting me off. Graham Hunter touches upon it in his review of the first leg at the Bernabeu:

Above all, let’s hope these teams treat us to another enthralling display of football like the one we saw on Sunday, a match stained only by two glaring negatives. Pepe, in particular, represents a growing ethos among Mourinho’s players that they can foul Barcelona’s players, then fake indignation that their victim is somehow exaggerating or acting. There was a tackle by the Portuguese international on Alves […] that I thought could easily have merited a red card for Pepe. Yet some Real Madrid players felt free, after the match, to slam Alves for what they think is his tendency to feign injury.

But it really goes further back than that.

A Flashback

When I was a kid, some of the other neighbourhood kids, my siblings and I used to play football in a small cement cage connected to a playground. There was one kid who brought the ball and we would all divide ourselves into loosely-defined teams and we’d slug it out. For a time, it would be very enjoyable. The other kids on the bench would cheer, parents ignored us unless there was some bone-crunching tackle or unseemly hair-pulling, and all was well.

Eventually, though, the difference in ability would become a bit obvious, as all the talented kids were on my team (hey, gotta say it like it is) and so the scoreline, not that anyone was really counting, would show that difference. More importantly though, was that the other team was being out-played and couldn’t compete. And so, after huffing and puffing and much screeching, the kid would simply pick up the ball and huff away. “Pahtooey! I didn’t want to play with you guys anyway!”

And we were left without a ball and without a pastime.

(Naturally, being kids, we would vent this frustration into a new pastime: ringing the doorbells of unsuspecting neighbours and giggling away before being caught).

As I got older, there were random matches played on the schoolyard during recess. When making teams, generally speaking, the more technically gifted kids would band together and be on the same team, while the other kids would be on the other. As usual, the games would start out fun before the other kids realized they’re not getting a kick. Annoyed, the kids stop the game and make their feelings known. An argument ends up happening, and it all gets very silly.

The not-getting-a-kick kids complain that the gifted kids should stop showboating and let them play too. The gifted kids end up huffing that the other kids shouldn’t be playing if they aren’t good enough to compete. Being the peacemaker, I would say that football is for everyone and we’re all playing the way we can and know how to. And the game would resume.

So what does this long-winding trip through memory lane have to do with El Clasico?

Post match, after being the victim of a vicious scissor tackle from Marcelo, Cesc Fabregas had dismissed the reporter’s question with regards to the incident with a shrug:

“Madrid? Well, they’re very competitive. Every team plays the way they want and can.”

But the connection still wasn’t made in my mind. It needed a discussion between new reader adopted cule and tactical whiz Euler on a part of Madrid tactics for me to finally understand what it was exactly that made my blood boil about these particular set of clasicos. An excerpt:

adopted cule: Madrid took an absurdly high number of hard, professional fouls in the first game. Any time that a Barcelona player threatened to break containment and get the ball into gaping spaces between the Madrid lines, a Madrid player would hack him down from behind with no potential play on the ball.

Euler: You bring up a very good point that I didn’t want to get into to much because it starts overlapping into areas where Madrid played in a very vile fashion. But your specific point is very correct. It’s very clear that in this set up Mourinho is using tactical fouling as a defensive technique.

Basically the Madrid players are left 1 vs. 1 across many parts of the pitch. If one gets beat the rest of the team behind them is at numerical disadvantage.

So what they are doing is this: tackle the ball and if you don’t get it – wipe out the attacker. Make sure that the attacker cannot progress. If you have to take the foul (or even the card) so be it.

[…] Madrid is using their pace to defend. They have good to outstanding pace all over the pitch now except in two spots – Carvalho and Xabi Alonso.

The reason why Xabi keeps making all of these awful tackles is that he is a poor athlete. He cannot close down the ball to defend. In turn he constantly has to wipe out the player to stop the play. He is constantly tactical fouling because he doesn’t have the foot speed to defend.

Tactical fouling is always a high risk strategy as you are always at risk for picking up cards. When mixed with reckless anger it’s a recipe for disaster. The tackles stop being tactical at some point and just become violent.

But [Mourinho] knows this – which is why he has been constantly complaining about referees since he came into La Liga. He knows he needs to pressure the refs to play this style of football – otherwise he’ll constantly have players sent off.

Basically, Mourinho is using tactical fouling as part of his system. Why is this worth noting? Because tacticans, when reviewing this match, want to keep their work as ‘objective’ as possible, or are taking the high road in this regard, and are choosing not to delve into this aspect of his tactics. Thus, in my humble opinion, an incomplete picture is painted and misguided conclusions are reached. This is explored in some ways in this article.

And this leads me to another thing I wish to discuss.

CHEATING and FC Barcelona

A rant I wrote in frustration in the comment section pretty much represents my feelings on the matter, and so I will paste it here:

Something I find interesting is the use of diving and cheating when talking about Barcelona.

Diving, in my view, is getting a foul when there is no contact made. Embellishing is making a meal of contact. And yet, the two are blurred together and simply referred to diving; in England, very often with outrage on TV and forums/blogs/message boards, as CHEATING — with capital letters to emphasize the point. Joey Barton on Twitter being the latest to use the term when talking about the Gervinho incident.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

Barcelona, as a whole, is accused of being divers and, by extension, cheaters. This is as if the whole team, on a regular basis, gets fouls in their favor when there is no contact made. What I will say, as a cule who has no problem admitting (if that is the right word choice) it, that Alves and Busquets, and sometimes Iniesta and Mascherano, are embellishers. They make meals out of contact made. Every single game? Definitely not. After every Clasico? Still no. Why? The biggest example is the 5-0 manita at home. Notice how little embellishing there was in that game – and both Alves and Busi played in the game, as did Pepe, Khedira, Ramos. In the CL final, there was also little to no embellishing. There are reasons for that. But do they do it? Yes. Yes, they do.

Which brings me to the next thing I want to rant about: the use of this embellishing as a method to look more balanced than one actually is. Somehow, this embellishing is equal to and, in the view of others, much worse than anything everyone else does, including potential career-ending tackles. “Bad tackles happen and it’s a man’s game anyway,” they say, “but diving/embellishing is CHEATING.”

Let me get a couple of things out of the way. Firstly, diving and embellishing suck. It is cheating as it unfairly gains an advantage that is not deserved. However in my world view, terrible tackles are so much worse. At worst, diving and embellishing can get someone sent off and you can lose the game. Tackling, on the other hand, can end careers – end a person’s livelihood; how a person makes money to support themselves and others around them; with many not having a back-up career. (The obscene amount of money they make in the first place is a different topic for another discussion).

Secondly, we don’t use embellishing as part of our tactical system. That is to say, Pep does not deliberately ask players to make meals of contact. If they do, they are acting alone in their behaviour.

The only time I can think of where embellishing was used as part of a deliberate, tactical approach, was the first leg of the CL semi-final after the Copa del Rey final. It was used as a direct response to the on-pitch mugging that occurred in the aforementioned final – to bring attention to the types of fouls that were no called due to the psychological pressure put on referees by a certain coach.

Now, in England, with their hatred of CHEATING and envy of Barcelona, inevitably chose to focus on this part. Because the media, which has a large reach in the football world, is annoyed their top teams keep losing to us and fans of those teams we’ve beaten feel the need to try and take the ‘gloss’ of the shine of the club in envy. There is no other possible point of contention on the pitch with regards to Barcelona, so one part is taken and then blown out of proportion. After all, doesn’t every team have at least one embellisher?

Has any manager or team complained about these so-called ‘theatrics’ other than one? There is a reason for that. For every action, there is a reaction; in football terms, for every tactical implement, there is an opposing one.

For example, Athletic Bilbao play physical football. They stay compact and are no-nonsense in their tackling. When they exceed the boundaries, they are given cards and accept them without much fuss or outrage and continue on. Likewise we take the tackles, or dish them and get cards, with little fuss or complaint. Why is this? Because the games are hard fought, tackling no-nonsense but not cynical.

Now here is the thing I really want to get off my chest.

If a team uses an aggressive approach as a part of a tactical system, which often exceeds the boundaries set by the rules of the game, are they not also CHEATING? After all, they are acting dishonestly/unfairly in order to gain an advantage. They are deliberately breaking the rules set by the game and are ‘conning’ the ref into believing there was little to no contact, that the player was diving, and/or it was their ‘first’ foul, and therefore go unpunished.

If the team who uses an aggressive approach as part of a tactical system which often exceeds the boundaries set, also contains players who, often and serially, go to ground easily with little to no contact, does that not make them CHEATING hypocrites? After all, they are claiming to have moral beliefs that they do not conform to while acting dishonestly/unfairly by deliberately exceeding the rules of the game in order to gain an advantage.

If the team’s coach who has implemented this aggressive approach as part of their tactical system, goes in front of the media and complains of players being dismissed are unwarranted, therefore saying said-players never exceed the boundaries of the game, and whose players claim it is due to the play-acting of the opposition team, make the coach’s team sanctimonious CHEATING hypocrites? After all they are making a show of being moral superior than others while being morally self-contradicting and are acting dishonestly/unfairly by deliberately exceeding the rules of the game in order to gain an advantage.

Adopting a physical approach is fine. There are boundaries, and the referee is there to enforce them. Ballet dancing this ain’t. But to play right up to, and beyond, the rules of physicality and fail to accept the consequences of your actions is demeaning, juvenile and dispiriting to witness. – Graham Hunter after the first leg of the SuperCopa

At this point, one would say ‘Barcelona say/do this on the field and in post-match comments’ to make the comment seem more balanced.

Which leads me to the next topic.

Building Up the Straw Men

As fans we tend to operate partly as fanatics of our team and partly as internet warriors wielding our keyboards in indignation at things being said about our team on a variety of blogs and/or articles. “WHAT?! Someone dares to say Xavi is overrated?! Ohhh, just you wait. I will be on you like pale on Iniesta,” fingers are cracked, words are typed at a dizzying speed, and an online battle between fan and other fan begins.

In El Clasico, with Mourinho as an added factor, these battles become more and more ugly as the frequency of Clasicos increase.

Make no mistake, El Clasico never used to be tame. Older fans will remember the infamous pig head thrown at Luis Figo’s return to Camp Nou after his transfer to Madrid. The boot has always been left in for a fraction longer than it should have, like a derby between rivals but with morbo making it about a million times more passionate. However, with the added use of social media and blurry YouTube videos to spread unseemly rumors, it has become even more toxic.

In these online battles, as the anger, frustration and indignation increases, the use of straw men arguments become prevalent. Reader Jose sums up the logical fallacy here:

[The use of the straw man logic fallacy]’s when you take an argument against you, hoist up a similar but far more superficial and flimsy argument (a straw man), and then refute that.

So when you turn “Barcelona believes that the dangerously aggressive style that Madrid has resorted to is creating a toxic environment in the Clasicos” into “Barcelona believes that nobody should play anything other than beautiful football and to do so would be an act of immorality” you’ve just changed your opponent’s argument into something that it isn’t, so that it is easy to refute. Many cules believe the former, a limited few believe the latter. The players have commented on the former, none have stated the latter.

Same goes for when “Barcelona’s current recruitment policy places an emphasis on promoting canteranos far more than Real Madrid’s policy which has favored purchasing most of its talent in recent history” somehow becomes “Barca’s recruitment policy has always been about promoting from La Masia while Real Madrid’s is only about Galacticos.” Many cules believe the former, few cules will actually argue the latter.

Of CHEATING, Straw Men, and El Clasico

The thing that was most frustrating about these Clasicos was the sheer childishness of it all. From fans, media, but more damningly, from the players and clubs themselves.

There is a stark inability to admit to when their club is wrong that is very prevalent, full of finger pointing and distracting. “That was a very bad challenge from Pepe.” Yeah, well, Alves went down like he was shot. “Di Maria rolled around like a bowling ball.” That was a blatant body check by Pique. “C.Ronaldo went down like a stack of cards.” What about Busquets?

But by far the worst thing that has happened in these Clasico is the use of lies and inconclusive video evidence. It started with the Busi-Marcelo video that surfaced on YouTube, which started as a rumor. It all changed when Real Madrid took a hold of this video and published it on their official website. Here was what was dumb things fans post after a game all the time to stir things up actually taken by club and used publicly. The David Villa rumor — where a Madrid fansite made up a quote attributed to Mesut Ozil saying Villa insulted Ozil’s religion [Islam] — is the latest example of this and was meant to be damaging and hurtful — to hurt and frustrate cules as much as they, the Madridistas, were hurt and frustrated at losing the tie. It had no basis whatsoever and was deleted as soon as it spread.

“Marcelo nearly breaks Cesc’s leg with a vicious tackle.” Yeah, well, Villa insulted Ozil’s religion. “But actually so-and-so just said Ozil stepped on Cesc when he was down.”

And it goes on and on. People find more and more ridiculous things to try and equate things to — to try and draw up a straw man to.

It’s childish, and cruel in its childishness, because as you know: kids can be cruel.

At this point, I would like to address something. As a cule, I know I am far from partial. Love can be blinding, after all. And I can’t say that I’m not guilty of falling into or being influenced by straw men arguments. However, in my world view, what should be judged first and foremost is the behaviour of teams on the pitch and in interviews and coaches in press conferences and interviews.

There are many people equating Barca’s and Madrid’s behaviour in this mess, as if they were the same. They are not. I want to say this as clearly as possible. The share of the blame is not equal.

A portion of it most definitely goes to Barcelona, for raising to the bait. The latest example being the Marcelo tackle. Notice how Pep immediately reacts, then catches himself and then goes to control his players. At that point, when Pep told them to stop, they should have stopped. They did not, and so they have to take their share of the blame. Barcelona are not completely innocent and without fault in this mess.

However, though no rational person is arguing, or should be arguing, that Jose Mourinho is not the largest part of this farce, one should also be reminded he is Madrid’s coach. It’s not just a case of Mourinho being Mourinho and that’s what he does. When he talks in press conferences, or any similar environment, he is representing Madrid. Do I care much for Madrid’s image? No. I can’t say that I do. They hired him, and they knew what baggage they were getting with him. Which is the point I’m trying to make.

FC Barcelona did not hire Jose Mourinho — Real Madrid CF did. And they have to bear the consequences of his actions, and the actions of their players while representing Madrid. That means what they do on the football pitch and in press conferences.

Similarly, we have Josep Guardiola, and we have to bear the responsibility of his actions and the actions of our players while representing Barcelona. It is not FC Barcelona’s fault that Jose Mourinho does not care about Real Madrid’s image, history, or them as an institution. We happen to have a coach who cares deeply about the club he manages. That’s our luck.

Right now, I see a Real Madrid team that does not know how to lose, with a manager adding gunpower to an already charged atmosphere to paraphrase one Gerard Pique.

We beat Madrid 2-6 at home. They beat us 4-1 with us having to do a guard of honor at their stadium. For the second time in a row, we beat Manchester United in the CL final. None were as bad as the last couple of Clasicos. The difference?

If you have a negative model, you do negative things. If you have a positive model, who says positive things, who says you have to onto the pitch to compete and play football, it’s much better. — Dani Alves after SuperCopa win.

There is a source to this added hostility, and he lives in Madrid. And until something is done, the same thing goes on and on and on.

So when I see another Clasico storm come by, I’m struck by yet another nagging feeling of déjà vu.

[There are a number of controversial topics discussed in this post at the same time. Let’s keep the comments and responses as civil as possible. I know I don’t need to say this for a site like BFB but I will just in case.]

By Kari

Just your neighbourhood Barca fanatic


  1. An interesting article Kari. This finger-pointing/counter finger-pointing reminds me of an article:


    It’s quite long, but the gist of it is: When one’s deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, one’s beliefs get stronger.

    So I say we just stop explaining/convincing EE fans, Barca haters etc because they won’t accept it. Just keep supporting Barcelona and enjoy the football while it lasts.

    Haters gonna hate.

  2. Thank you for writing clearly and logically the things I’ve been thinking and feeling since the 2nd leg of the SuperCopa. Great post.

    The part about the illusion of objectivity is spot on. Journalists do tend to equate both clubs’ behaviour in their pieces on Clasicos in an attempt not to appear biased. But that isn’t being objective, it’s being misleading. There is a cause and effect here, and reporting the facts is not being unfair or partisan. We aren’t saying Barcelona is not to blame at all, but one club is clearly more at fault than the other.

    Like you said, we’ve gotten to a point where fans have a rebuttal, no matter how ridiculous, for every objection raised. It’s gotten to the point where we’re just shouting at each other.

    Like you and every culé I think, I’m also baffled by people who equate diving or embellishing with dangerous tackling. I think this belief comes from the continued talk about football being “a man’s game”, and the tendency of fans of certain teams to argue that players should take tackles without complaining, ignoring the fact that these tackles can be- and in the case of the Clasico, have been- dangerous, reckless, illegal, and indefensible, to the point where they can’t even be called tackles unless we’re talking about American football or rugby. Of course these arguments are thrown out the window as soon as these fans’ own players are fouled.

    It’s a mess, and Mourinho’s at the heart of it. The mess won’t be cleaned up until he’s gone I’m afraid.

    1. True. I can’t believe people who equate tackling with embellishing.

      Pepe is really a disgrace to football.

    2. agreed. I hope Madrid loses for their own sake. It is the only way Mourinho will get fired….

      They need to start over fresh with somebody who does their club justice.

  3. True.

    We play against Physical teams like Bilbao and Copenhagen and none of this happens. We won and lost before against EE with low and high scores home and away (6-2,3-0 to us, 4-1,1-0 to them). None of this happened in this case either.

    What irritates me the most when an EE player makes a foul on a Barca player, A blatant obvious foul, Their players object and raise their hands and camera turns to Mou who is also not content. That’s the most telling, They don’t even accept blatant fouls without cards.

    I do blame Mou for all of this bad blood. He uses that to drift away the focus on him onto others. To hear rumors about offending The Muslims and the Black is just silly. They choose something bigger than football so that he doesn’t accept or explain his defeat.

    I miss Pelligrini. He played real football and put us on the back foot many times (Camp Nou 1-0 by Ibra). He accepted the defeat with grace.

  4. Great post Kari! You make excellent points.

    I wish we could just pay no mind to the craziness that is Mou but he’s like the elephant in the room.

    The people who have predicted that if and when we win La Liga and the CL, FP will give Mou the boot are right. What would be the cherry on top for me is if FP hires Valdano as the replacement..that’d be the perfect eff you gesture to the translator 🙂

  5. In my opinion this all ratcheted up near the end of the manita when it became clear just how superior Barca were in a straight up competition. In a moment of candor afterwards, if I remember correctly, Mourinho admitted it the worst beating in his coaching career. It sure seems he decided he wouldn’t be humiliated like that again, at any cost. I believe there has been shell shock and siege mentality from that shellacking.

    I really like what Kari has written, I am no way, no how in the keep quiet, it will go away camp. Silence in the face of obvious wrong doing is complicity… like it or not. The silence approach has not proven to work very well historically as people are bullied and intimidated by thugs into keeping quiet while they redefine reality and inflict their nonsense on everyone. I am personally confounded by the logic that says, “this is a man’s game” therefore, what? anything goes? – bullshite. Saying it’s a man’s game doesn’t make futbol Extreme or Ultimate fighting… It’s futbol and has rules. You want to kick people in the chest, face, scissor trap their legs and take them down, etc. – yeah, Extreme fighting might be for you, don’t redefine that as futbol- it’s absolute BS and should be called out. I know, let’s just let it keep ratcheting, we’ll just wear extra padding, maybe helmets… Oh wait, that’s already a different game, you like it, GO PLAY IT – it’s not this futbol, it’s the other one. The whole embellishing discussion ticks me off. It is not making a meal of a challenge to call attention to repeated boundary pushing challenges, that’s self preservation and an attempt to influence fans and refs who may be calloused to such rule breaking.

    Just because what’s going on makes some people uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, and rationalization is the process of making the unacceptable acceptable, but it doesn’t change the fact that the original actions registered as wrong or unacceptable or when looked at in retrospect are in obvious violation of, and repeatedly outside the bounds of, fair play as this particular sport defines it. Mostly what I feel is that it is one of those cases of people feeling powerless and hoping against hope it’ll stop, because taking it on directly means a fight- sadly the alternative is the old boiling then frog effect where things incrementally get redefined until where we started is a distant memory. I remember when fuel prices in the US jumped to $3, people were outraged, over the next several years they’ve inched along and approached $4 and not too much noise- I’m leary of frog boiling when it comes to violence in futbol.

  6. Excellent post Kari!

    What bothers me most is the way Madrid argue every call, even when they know they are guilty.

    Example: Carvalho seems to be saying Alves dove in the following clip. Carvalho knows full well that he kicked right through him. Their non-stop arguing with the ref (which is lead by Mourinho himself) is clearly a well thought-out, team-wide tactic, and is frankly pretty disgusting.


  7. Distributing blame may be emotionally satisfying but is rarely practically productive.

    As long as Fiorentino stands by Mourinho, Madrid will continue to employ aggressive fouls as a way to break up Barcelona’s play off the ball. Mourinho will continue to pressure refs at his pressers to avoid excess cards, he will stoke his players’ sense of injustice as their primary motivation, and he will complain to the press as a way to get Fifi off his back.

    Any objection from Barça, culés and/or journalists only reinforces the ‘us against the world’ mentality that Mou creates for himself and his team. It only proves him right to the people that matter most.

    But there are other parties on the field. One of them is Barcelona, and Pep is the leader of Barcelona. It is disingenuous for Pep to duck out of the fracas as if he were running for the high ground while his players and staff run amok in the melée. If Guardiola were truly committed to 100% clean play, he would not respond to fouls at all. He would at all times respect the calls made by officials without complaint, and he would demand that everyone on the bench remain seated until the match was over and the pitch was quiet. It would be clear to all players at all times that the proper response to journalists is some variation of “No comment” (“What happens on the pitch stays on the pitch”, for example).

    But this is not the case. Dani, Xavi and Piqué are particularly mouthy to the press, whether in interviews, on their Twitter accounts and before the mike. They are able to communicate messages that would not be proper from Pep or Rosell, but are advantageous for Barcelona all the same. So Xavi can pretty much admit that Busquets is a jerk, and Dani can take a jab at Mourinho, and Piqué can signal that Cesc is on the wing.

    Meanwhile, Pinto happens to be very active any time there is a scuffle, even if he’s been benched for the past three months. Valdés comes running off the line at a late tackle. Why Villa would get into a pushing match with Oezil when both had been subbed is beyond me. And what is Tito doing retaliating while Mou stands there smirking? Is Tito pushing Mou going to stop Marcelo from taking out Cesc? It would be embarrassing if it weren’t as thought-out as Pepe’s chop-downs.

    Barcelona’s response works for Barça. If they slide quietly into the lawn or sit stonefaced on the bench, there is a risk that they will be perceived as less athletic, less committed, less — let’s face it! — macho than Madrid (which is already a cultural stereotype in Spain). But it is in Barça’s best interests to maintain the moral high ground. So they can react, all right, and push and shove about it, and then they can pout and sulk afterwards and say that Mourinho is ruining a great Spanish team, all of Spanish football.

    This is important, I suspect, because Madrid has always prided itself on its history, its reputation, its legacy. No one in Barcelona wants Mourinho around, because his tactics are dangerous to Barça’s players. But if they can’t get rid of him by beating him a lot (like last season), they may be able to get rid of him by blaming him for besmirching RM’s bright whities. So if they lose *and* people start to drift away from Madrid, and buy someone else’s jerseys, and want their picture with someone else’s no. 9, then maybe the board will cut him loose. So RM is playing into Barça’s hand much the way Barça plays into Mourinho’s.

    The only person, perhaps, able — indeed, responsible — for stopping this mess is the ref. If I were he, I would consider a clásico my last match. And before the game I would call the captains over and say this:

    “I am going to say this once and take no questions. You can clear the bench or I can clear the pitch. Every foul is a yellow. Every complaint is a yellow. Every unsportsmanlike comment is a yellow. Second fouls, complaints, comments and egregious firsts are reds. Anyone who gets himself involved is a yellow. Anyone off the bench is a red. Any coach who complains gets a red. Go tell this to your men and meet me in the circle in 2 minutes. Otherwise you get a yellow for delay of game.”

    Except … morbo sells.

    1. So is it who wears down quicker (RM, FCB or the ref)? or who plays their card better (which card and when)? Currently it seems this is a fight of three sides and no arbitration in between when the LFP turns the other cheek.

  8. do you know how bad Mou influence in the world of football?

    when I discussed about El Clasicos with my milanista friend,
    he kept pointing Barcelona as the bad guys, the divers, the actors.
    he hates Madrid too, mind you.

    I said, “well, kicking and stomping legs is also not football! Madrid made dirty and dangerous fouls!”

    he answered : “what kicking? that’s just normal fouls in football!”

    I don’t think people will realize how dirty and dangerous Madrid players are until one of our player injured so badly.
    and everytime a football fan says that Madrid plays “normal”, Mou win and smile in dark.

    1. People will always choose a side no matter who’s side they were originally on. There’s this ‘point system’ as Kari mentions, they did this! well you did THIS! … and I think that those “outsiders” who may perhaps be as envious or as expectant of the downfall of Barcelona, will choose to see through Madridista eyes.

  9. When speaking to RM fans.. about this whole thing…
    Its like when you tell your buddy that you saw his girlfriend cheats on him, you are for a good small span of time his bestest friend, until he talks to the girlfriend… suddenly she’s cleared up all that you’ve claimed and you are now the ENEMY ! how dare you?… its like that.
    We being the press, journalists, videos, the live game and the girlfriend is Jose Mourinho. While he remains the coach at RM. No matter what, he has the last word. Rational or not. As a friend all you do is sit and watch until your buddy comes back and says “she was cheating” and you say “I told you so.”

  10. I wouldn’t worry too much about Mourinho. Reason being is that if he doesn’t win the league or the champions he is most likely going to be sacked. When you guys see the replay of the fight, look at Florentino’s face. He is embarrased. It’s his legacy and it’s being soiled. The league will get back to normal in time.

    I do worry about the alleged racist chants at the Nou Camp. If there’s any of that going on, Rossell better address it & set an example for the other 19 teams in la primera.

  11. we just really need to win everything again to get rid of Jose (Mourinho), he is a such a disease.

    from fcbfandrivel article :

    I’m sure there are people who like him, his mother for one, but we’re not among them. But even as non-members of the Mourinho Fan Club, we are rather worried about him.

    Sure, if Mou catches the flu, we’re not going to send him Get Well Soon postcards with smiley faces on it, but we are frankly very perturbed at the thought of Mou ending up in a padded cell scribbling FC Barcelona on the walls and striking them out with thick red crosses.

    And to be honest, the Mourinho we saw during the last Classico wouldn’t have surprised us if he’d started cackling to himself and running around in circles.

  12. What I’m most worried about is the fact that some fans managed to spread a rumor that Villa said something very offensive to Ozil. When all the bad mouthing and fighting between these two clubs occur both clubs’ image are being soiled, but when things become personal and individual players are affected off the pitch that is when it becomes a real concern. Mourinho has completely changed not only how the players react during and after games, but also the fans, the fans become obliged to take things a step further and take actions either online and (hopefully not) on the streets and they target individuals. This is the real concern, how many classicos does it take before fans start burning each others stadiums down?

    SoccerMom made very good points and thank you Kari for a fantastic write up. Simply the club as a whole have to stand strong and not react to anything Madrid do, react on the field, but not off it. If we ever try to address an issue Mourinho brings, we’ll have to address at everything and too everyone, and that counters our productivity rather then help it. The best thing is to ignore it and the storm will pass.

  13. Great article, Kari.

    While I think this is an important Anthem, perhaps I’m an optimist…I think the problem that is Mou is starting to solve itself.

    Think about it, going into last season we had the dreaded ‘Special One’ heading up the Evil Empire, the most feared coach in the world, and having come off of outcoaching Pep is the CL finals. With CR7 and arguably the best goalie in the world, there was alot to fear.

    Fast forward to Liga & CL Champions, and frustrating the man to the point of completely exposing his true nature with childish antics, effectively a ‘wet willy’, and a step on the head of a player ruthlessly taken down by Marcelo…making him Sensei having his team ‘sweep the leg’ time and time again.

    So while this is merely an inconsequential pre-season Cup, its our most important victory of all, one that is demonstrating to the world what Barca heart & play are made of, vs. Madrid’s export product. Madristas a starting to wake up from the spell, and the boards, forums and barstool conversations are reflecting that.

    Make no mistake, these tactics have tarnished everyone. We have also sacrificed our reputation with less than honorable acting in some cases particularly from the likes of Busi, Dani and others. EE is playing well, and this series was ugly and could have gone either way.

    But with Pep leading the Rebel Forces, there has never been a more glorious time to be a Barca fan. We have been victorious, validating our Masia and our principles. We have our deepest line-up in history with 2 incredibly promising signings looking to keep the momentum, and our No. 9 appearing to wake up.

    The only I am disappointed about is Pep not taking our virtues off the field and mandating that Villa publicly apologoize to Ozil, regardless of the circumstance of what really transpired.

    1. I agree with your main points, I too was a bit worried when Mourinho first took charge, because clearly he was very unpredictable, and that was his biggest strength, his name just intimidates opponents. But after going through last season up until this very day, Mourinho doesn’t look very intimidating, infact he seems more of a comic relief and motivational tool for our players.

      But I have to disagree with your last paragraph, the club and especially Pep do not have to take any action on fake allegations that are spread over the media. Like I said in my last post, its better to not do anything and stay quiet, once we take action on one false allegation, then we’ll have to take action on every single other one and it becomes pointless.

    2. Reference to Villa was to apologize for the slap, not any religious thing that didn’t happen anway.

    3. yes that’s fair enough, but Villa already got booked for his actions, Casillas and everyone else don’t get punished for their actions.

  14. Excuse my ill knowledge of the bold and italics ways of posting. So the above quote i will put in between, well, two quotations. Allow me as I use the very wise words of a Cule. You might know him be the name of Kxevin:

    “It’s just that they are just committed to their club as we are to ours. To them, Marcelo’s foul on Fabregas was justly rewarded with a red card, then our bench escalated the affair, thus converting it to a brawl. Every argument has two sides.

    Some even believe that Fabregas’ reaction was exaggerated. Nonsense? No more or less nonsensical than the assertion that Pepe was trying to break Alves’ leg with his now-infamous challenge in El Clasic last season, or the allegations of racial taunts against Busquets, which have again reared their ugly head.

    El Clasic will never be civilized. The best we can hope for is less horrific. It makes those days of them just kicking Messi seem like fond nostalgia, right?

    What I am explaining is some of the fallacies behind your notion that they are somehow “brainwashed.” They are no more or less “brainwashed” than we are. Each set of fans is seeing things through its own set of filters. To us, they’re wrong. To them, we’re wrong.
    It’s as simple as that.

    You miss my point: It isn’t about misbehavior or shame. It’s simply about the ability of fans to believe that their side is right. This isn’t true of all fans, but that makes the reality no less apparent, thus making them no less brainwashed than our fans are.

    Recall the Busquets incident, and my reactions to it, and the stick that I took for it? Our side is right, dammit, and that’s that. It’s a perfect example of the other side of the coin. They said he said it, we said he didn’t. They say we’re brainwashed, we say we’re not.

    For me, this isn’t right or wrong, nor is it as simple as us being able to say that their fans are brainwashed, particularly when that brainwashing is in part, a big necessity of being a fan.”

    For me to give you my opinion, i would be feeding that brainwashed instinct that Kxevin mentions before. And thats why most of the post above fits into that above.

    I would/have happily call out Mou, Pepe and everyone for their antics. I have done that. And i will stick to the idea that Mou’s actions were a disgrace for my club. I will agree that Pepe is too aggressive and dangerous on the field. Don’t know how he stayed on the field in the first leg. Marcelo’s tackle was very dangerous as well, and got what he deserves. A straight red. He didn’t even argue. He looked up and walked out. As he should have done for such a stupid tackle.

    And I’ve stayed up beating myself over the idea of how badly some of the behavior is. But here is the thing, thats all i care about. My teams behavior. How that behavior can be improved. Possibilities of stopping it.

    What many cules do now is they find shelter in saying: We are both at fault, but they are much worse. Why not concentrate on what your team does? People celebrate for Iker calling Xavi, but no one cares for Villa to call and apologize? If each team concentrated more on fixing their problems before delving into the other teams problems, reading blogs would be much easier.

    It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. Its not about who is more at fault. Because at the end of the day, both clubs can’t come out and say they are proud of what happened. And it’s a shame, because these two games were one of the best displays of football i have seen in years. Shame that 5 minutes are taking over what happened over 175 minutes.

    And btw, the part you cules will not agree with me about is the reason why i support Real Madrid and you support Barcelona.

    1. ahh, excuse the typos. I just got off a 400 mile drive from LA to Sacramento. And if anyone has seen Sacramento, you would understand the disinterest.

    2. I respect your thoughts on all of this but I have to ask you a question.

      Do you think/believe the players have been heavily influenced(or brainwashed) by Mourinho’s aggressive, barbaric tactics both on and off the field? If you don’t then what do you attribute the shift in attitude in the likes of Casillas and Alonso?

      The reason I ask is because despite the rivalry between Barcelona and Madrid, I’ve always had respect and admiration for these two particular players despite them playing for RM and I’ve noticed a difference in the way they respond and react. Naturally I’m more inclined to quickly point the finger towards Mou but I’d like to know the perspective of a Madridista.

    3. I’d say its a possibility. A coach has an enormous amount of influence on their players right? Obviously it’s insane to think a person would instruct players to hurt anyone maliciously but because of all that’s happened in these past classicos how can you not come to wonder if such instructions could have been given.

      I’m not saying he’s instructed his players to break legs out there when your loosing and there’s no hope. But where does the aggressiveness come from? This goes beyond fouling someone and verges into the territory of physical violence(intentional or unintentional). The comment from Casillas post Super Copa final resembles what Mourinho said in his press conference. Cesc faked the fouled is the same as I was educated in football to play like men and not to fall over easily..so is this because of the PR department coordinating comments for everyone, did the coach instruct his players on what to say, or was this really his own genuine take on the events of that day?

    4. You have to remember that these players, just like us, are humans. They get affected by what they hear/read. Perhaps from the view that iker got of the foul it seemed like Cesc had faked the foul and out of frustration (yes, he is allowed to get frustrated just like Barca players (read messi for example) are allowed to get frustrated) and said that comment. He then retracted it, no?

      We are looking at this situation as if there is a wrong or right and thats it. But thats not the case, and then again, i refer you to Kxevin’s comment. If me and you are brainwashed (each in his own way), then how “brainwashed” do you think are the players that are taking part in the game?

    5. What she means is the difference in attitude though, isn’t it? Koeman may always have been aggressive, it may have been how they were. Certain players, like Oliver Kahn or Roy Keane or whoever, are aggressive or the like and you can’t really pin that on their coach cos they’ve always been so. The funny thing is as she points out how players like Casillas and Alonso have become quite different since Mourinho came.

    6. Different how? As in how they play or their comments in the media? Because we need to remember, what is said in front of the media is not always the same as what is said behind the scenes.

    7. @ Bassam:

      If cruijff did instruct his players to act as thugs then he is a jerk, no questions asked.
      The video link you posted is for a match that was played 16 or 17 years ago, back then the rules were much more linient, a lot of defenders who were “good defenders” back then will not last a match by today’s laws.
      Also why are you using a 16 years old match to compare with a match that was only played last week, we are talking about the 2011 supercopa not the 1992-1993 la liga.
      This was a meanngless preseason trophy, it should be treated as such, not as a UCL semifinal, but your coach doesnt seem to understand that.
      Players like pepe and ramos were thugs even before Mou, but now your whole team is upping the assaults (except for kaka), i wish you guys can keep Mou forever as your coach, really classy guy and a true gentleman.
      Finally Bassam, what do u have to say about Mou poking Tito in the eye??????

  15. The notion that gamesmanship is on the same level as violence is another example of false equivalence.

    They are not. It’s not shades of grey or a matter of perspective either.

    And unfortunately, these games have become violent.

    Marcelo’s tackle was not a simple everyday red card tackle. The purpose of scissor kicking someone is to stabilize them frontally so that you can cause the leg to collapse against force.

    Marcelo easily could have ended Fabregas’ season – he could have permanently affected Fabregas’ career.

    It’s remarkable for one player to decide for himself that out of his own petty frustrations and anger he is going to put at risk the livelihood and dreams of another individual.

    And this was after Marcelo kicked Messi in the ribs.

    Pepe, C.Ronaldo, Di Maria and Marcelo all took blatant dives in the supercopa – by the prevailing logic of some it would be ok for someone to jeopardize their livelihoods as well.

    And a red card alone is insufficient punishment here. That was a vicious tackle – and it’s not the first time that kind of thing has happened.

    Last season Ramos could have severely injured Messi in the dying moments of the manita.

    So the real question is why do Madrid players feel the right to inflict violence in this way? What is going to make them stop jeopardizing the health of Barcelona players?

    A red card is not the solution. The solution is for this practice to stop.

    Similarly Villa was completely wrong to slap Oezil. Villa should be suspended – not for the supercopa – but for Liga games. It’s completely wrong for him to get involved physically.

    Now that said – what Villa did was in no way as dangerous as what Marcelo did. They are both wrong – but not equivalently so.

    Finally – one of the least discussed aspects of what Mourinho did was it’s potential to cause serious injury to Tito.

    The eye is one of the most fragile parts of the body. It is not designed to absorb any kind of trauma.

    Mourinho easily could have caused serious damage to Tito’s vision. Especially in that scrum. Mourinho easily could have been pushed from behind or tripped and exerted far more force in gauging Tito’s eye than he “meant” to.

    But as with all things Mourinho – he fine committing acts which put others at risk. Doesn’t affect him any of he caused physical harm to another person.

    Yes jose. You certainly competed like “men” out there.

    Mourinho has completely consolidated power in Madrid. He is one of the single most powerful people in the history of that institution. He is it’s face right now. And the only balance against him is the institutions history.

    And history is losing.

    There is no excuse for violence on the pitch. And the clasicos have become explicitly violent. And it’s not Barcelona who is engineering that. It’s Mourinho.

    1. The eye is one of the most fragile parts of the body. It is not designed to absorb any kind of trauma.

      Mourinho easily could have caused serious damage to Tito’s vision. Especially in that scrum. Mourinho easily could have been pushed from behind or tripped and exerted far more force in gauging Tito’s eye than he “meant” to.

      a spokesperson claimed it was because Mourinho defending Real Madrid.

      how exactly Mou come from behind and calmly tried to make Tito (or “Pito”, Mou said) half blind is the way to defend Real Madrid, is really a mistery to me.

      can you imagine your little kid is just standing there, doing nothing, and suddenly a kid’s neighbour come from behind and poke your kid in the eye? potentially make your kid half blind for all his life?
      even the kids around my neighbourhood know that is a very dangerous thing to do.

      if something bad happen to Tito’s eye, I don’t think there’s any rational RM fan can defend what Mou did.

    2. Agree with your thoughts.But people think that Tito should’nt have hit Mourinho.We’ve already seen that Spanish television has manipulated the video and showed only the last part where Tito smacked Mourinho.

    3. yes, there is a manipulation on a Spanish television.

      but I think most people in this world know it’s Mourinho who started it first.

      Mou got headlines from that eye-gouging, something he must be very proud of.

    4. Everyone should read this GREAT comment by Euler!
      I totally agree with your views and thank you for expressing it in such great way. As you correctly point out this is NOT a matter of perspective anymore…no grey area.
      And this about these being considered “manly” actions well its not funny anymore its SCARY especially if you consider this is a a man almost 50 years old doing that a man that chooses to give this example to his 2 children and not a 20 something footballer a man that doesn’t show a sign of remorse…SCARY
      The only positive is that this man is into sports and not into Politics otherwise I’m pretty sure his name would be there with rest of mad leaders/butchers through out history…obsessed with his way being the “right” way…limitless while eveyrbody is watching

      “…Marcelo easily could have ended Fabregas’ season – he could have permanently affected Fabregas’ career….

      …Pepe, C.Ronaldo, Di Maria and Marcelo all took blatant dives in the supercopa – by the prevailing logic of some it would be ok for someone to jeopardize their livelihoods as well”

    5. I’m worry about the next El Clasico, I really am.

      and no, no. it’s not the result that terrifies me.

      I’m afraid something bad could happen to our player.

      Marcelo easily could have ended Fabregas’ season – he could have permanently affected Fabregas’ career.

      And this was after Marcelo kicked Messi in the ribs.

      it’s just scary.

    6. Mourinho is just trying to drag barca down to his level, a complete irrelevent idiotic self-centered stupidity thug level and we must not fall down into his trap

    7. Thank you. “False equivalence” – that exactly sums up what is happening in this story. Which is precisely what I had told Kxevin in the previous discussion I had with him as well. But you have elaborated the point in very essential detail.

      I don’t have a problem with fans of Real Madrid defending their favourite club’s decisions here or there, but there is no defense of criminal behaviour and I use the word, “criminal” after a lot of thought. It is one thing to employ “professional” fouls; another trying to decapitate the opponent – be it the scissor kick or the unseemly body check/clotheslines that Marcelo/Pepe used or the eye gouging act of Mourinho.

      And this is my problem with the writers of RMFB. They do have eloquence to a decent extent, and to their credit they have taken the right stance of denouncing what Jose Mourinho and his wards did. But they rely on false equivalence. They try to suggest that Barcelona team’s misdemeanours – and admittedly there were misdemeanours – were of the same order as that of the “criminal” behaviour by the Real Madrid protagonists.

      There was a definite plan in Mourinho’s ways on the field and off the field. On the field, the use of tactical fouling and “frustration” fouling was done for a) halting the build up of play which was getting out of control for the pace starved Real Madrid outfit in critical areas and b) For spite.

      a) as AdoptedCule pointed out was a matter of one’s taste – old school football lovers would have tolerated it as part and parcel of the game, while new school ones would have denounced it and I denounce it.

      b) is simply intolerable and is a Mourinho legacy.

      And that is why Bassam’s fulminations and ratiocinations come up very short of accepting what is just in this matter. In any other civilised set up of sport regulations, acts such as Mourinho’s (and the Bernabeu/Nou Camp crowd of blatant racism) would have been dealt with severely. The NBA for e.g. would have appropriately punished it akin to the Ron Artest brawl. And would have envisaged a stringent policy for tackling racism.

      But La Liga has fallen short of ability to regulate, whereas Madrid is too drunk on the supposed power of Mourinho that they have willingly accepted the Devil’s Advocate.

      In a just word, David Villa gets a 2 match suspension for his slap, Marcelo gets a 5 match ban for his scissor kick, Pepe does not even play the second leg and handled a similar 2 match suspension for his kick on Valdes and Mourinho is given a 10 match ban and Camp Nou/ Bernabeu are forced to play with empty stadia for a game to send a message on racism. Plus new regulations on “not leaving bench” are strictly enforced from now on akin to those in the NBA.

      None of that is going to happen and that is the unjustness of it all.

    8. I don’t have a problem with fans of Real Madrid defending their favourite club’s decisions here or there, but there is no defense of criminal behaviour and I use the word, “criminal” after a lot of thought. It is one thing to employ “professional” fouls; another trying to decapitate the opponent – be it the scissor kick or the unseemly body check/clotheslines that Marcelo/Pepe used or the eye gouging act of Mourinho.

      indeed. fans will always defend their favourite club, that’s a fact.
      but too see some of them (especially Madridistas around me) defending Marcelos’s scissor tackle, Pepe’s “profesional” fouls, or Mourinho’s eye-gouging, I just don’t get it. how can anyone defend that?

  16. Its a delicate situation indeed.
    Should a team like Barcelona concentrate on football purely and ignore other things. Should they brave all the wild accusations of doping, racism and be subjected to nasty, potential career ending tackles on the field and still not be expected to say anything?
    My stance on this matter is very clear. Its not like we don’t know how to play against physical teams. Rubin Kazan, Athletic Bilbao, Chelsea etc have always played physical games against us. The fact that Madrid employs this kind of play as a tactical strategy takes this to another level. Now we know that it is not just born out of pure frustration, but also pure instruction. When we know that the players are suffering from plays that are pre meditated, it calls for aggression. keeping quiet will only aggravate this matter. it might even be read as submission or inability to adapt to the man’s game. Someday messi, fab will be out for the season. We will cry. They might get some crappy suspension, but they’ll be smiling inside. We must do all we can to avoid that situation.
    But It is straight up annoying when ‘objective’ journalists stay away from calling these things out. Its disgusting. its your profession’s duty to bring to the readers an idea of what actually happened.

    I loved that image of us fans being keyboard gladiators. 😀
    but what else can we do right? While i say its important to not get bullied and get run over, we must also not succumb to extreme anger, because that too, we know, is what EE under the ho wants to provoke.

  17. Most of his ” psychological game” happens only in his brain. Very naive “Cecs went to barca due to tapping” belive in “Mou wars”.

    Cules and madristas may argue back and forth but neither managers nor players actually do not give a damn.

    Keep in mind – players have to give same answers to press every day and this is boring part of thier jobs. Fire and forget.

    This is a game. A GAME.

  18. With mou now claiming that whatever he does he does for the good of RM thus shifting this whole blame towards the club rather than him…Do you think he wants to get fired?

    Not winning the supercopa was a huge blow for him he didn’t excpect that and seeing our physical state he was indeed right in thinking that. However by leaving he gets a clean start to another team- maybe portuguese NT euro is approaching- and he doesnt have his precious “tactical mastermind” reputation that tarnished for losing again to Barcelona.

    1. I don’t think he wants to get fired unless he’s got some beef with Florentino Perez too. He succeeded with Chelsea, Inter, and Porto..now he’s at the helm of one of the biggest clubs in the world. Given his track record I doubt this man would want to give up so easily. Now if he looses La Liga and the CL again then yeah he would probably want to walk away but not yet, not at the start of the season.

      I don’t think he’s shifting the blame towards the club. I read an article about his spokesperson’s(or whatever he is) statement regarding Mou’s actions. What I got from it is that Mou doesn’t give a rats ass what anyone thinks and won’t say sorry. It’s more like he’s trying to say what he did was for el madridismo(probably expecting everyone to be okay with it because of his reasoning).

  19. Good answers of Rosell via barcastuff, trying to calm things down from Barça side.

  20. I think everyone’s pretty much covered everything I would want to say in the comments above. Neither side come away with their hands clean. I’m not going to defend Busi or Alves’ play-acting for a second. But it’s downright stupid to equate tackling with embellishing.

  21. Btw, saw that Sid Lowe gave a shout out to this article. Good going:).

    I think it is best to just ignore Mou for time being. I think that if there is one thing that will really piss him off, its people ignoring him. Mou lives to be in lime light. So lets simply do the opposite. At least i plan to, till next one comes along.

  22. @ Bassam

    Why not concentrate on what your team does?

    In general, this blog does. However there’s no reason to restrict discussion of this situation to Barcelona. In order to get a real appreciation of the situation, that does involve analyzing and understanding the behavior of Mourinho and RM. Practically speaking, we can’t sit here and just talk about Barca’s behavior outside of the charged context in which it happens. Not that that excuses it, and by no means are Barcelona just a victim here, but to analyze it in isolation is a non-starter.

    People celebrate for Iker calling Xavi, but no one cares for Villa to call and apologize?

    Refer to Kari’s excerpt from this post: the discussion devolves into one full of finger pointing and distracting. But I will answer anyway. My impression was that Casillas called Xavi specifically to clear the air regarding what they were arguing about after the brawl, and more generally to try ease tensions ahead of the national team’s gathering next. I did find that commendable for him as captain.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I think it would be great if Villa called Ozil to clear the air. But the Villa/Ozil incident is no different than all the other individual incidents that will come out of such a brawl (except they both actually got red carded): Ozil and Villa got into a shoving match, Villa smacked Ozil and Ozil was held back before he could retaliate. I would love for one to call the other and apologize, but in light of the atmosphere around the teams, I unfortunately don’t expect it to happen.

    Its not about who is more at fault.

    It isn’t per sé. And the purpose here isn’t anything as childish as to simply assign a distribution of blame and be done with it. The question when such behavioral trends start to emerge is “what needs to change?” There’s definitely some “falling to the bait” behavior on Pep and company’s part that needs to change. Likewise, there is plenty that Mourinho and his team need to change to defuse the situation.


    I have to weigh in on a question that has been discussed here. What should we, as individual fans of Barcelona, actually do that will have an effect? Not much, really. I don’t find much satisfaction in being an “internet warrior”, righting all the wrongs written by any shmuck with a computer and an internet connection. But I implore you guys to above all enjoy this team and this game as much as you can. Years from now none of this tertiary nonsense will matter, only the memories you hold from today will. So above anything else, make them good ones.

    1. ” But I implore you guys to above all enjoy this team and this game as much as you can. Years from now none of this tertiary nonsense will matter, only the memories you hold from today will. So above anything else, make them good ones.”

      Well said. I completely agree. We should as football fans, focus on taking as much pleasure from the play of Barcelona’s talented golden generation as we can before the transient period ends. But part of partaking in that pleasure is to call attention to the context in which the talented players are being subjected to violence and unnecessary distraction, as part of a well thought out ploy of unsettling. So one has to question the rough as we appreciate the smooth. Or atleast point fingers at that.

  23. I wonder if in some way Mourinho enjoys all of this. He has successfully turned the Clasico, the greatest drama in football, into a narrative all about him, about what he’s doing to Real Madrid and how Barcelona responds to his tactics and his actions. I think he’s a narcissist, and not only does his ego require him to do something ridiculous to deflect the discussion from yet another failure by his team, but he needs all the attention.

    I don’t know why Madrid fans put up with it. I would be ashamed to have a coach who behaves like he does representing my club. He’s tarnishing RM’s image, and several old-school Madridistas have been admitting that.

    The only way to get rid of him is for Barça to have another victorious season. Perez will finally see that the Mourinho myth is just a myth, that there is nothing special about the Special One except his ability to be petty and play dirty, and the Mourinho bubble will be definitively burst. That’s what I’m hoping for, and I hope RM get a good and decent coach so we can all get back to talking about football. One encouraging sign is that the English press, which until last season seemed to hold Mourinho in some sort of awe, seems to have had enough of his antics.

  24. Very unfortunately, Spanish football is run by bunch of douches and morons, and they struggle to even get the liga started on time now. How do we expect them to protect the game by inserting the proper disciplinary actions when case such as this came out?

    They could easily think: Clasicos are of that nature and those teams are what make Liga so attractive, leave it. Then walk away.

    I agree with SoMa on only the refs can stop this. Had refs on Clasicos be more brave and perform up to the standard, we can limit the chance of violence.

    What ref should do against thugs-like tackles from both teams is to give them yellows, and then reds.

    What ref should do against exaggerations from both teams is to play on and leave the exaggerating player’s team vulnerable, so that if you exaggerate, you take the risk of conceding goals.

    * As if the refs are perfect.

  25. Good points brought forward, Kari. I’ve wondered about this aspect myself. At what point does playing roughly become an issue? I wrote about this on a blog of mine after the first leg of the CL tie with RM last season, but my own conclusions were more optimistic than yours–or my own current ones. At the time what I saw was that Mourinho was starting to play across that line of what is considered acceptable violence, and what is not, by FIFA’s rules. I assumed that this sort of behavior would not be condoned, evidenced by Pepe’s red card after fouling Alves. But now I’m not so sure.

    Part of the problem is, of course, the media. When watching the last leg of the Spanish Super Cup, the two commentators were Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson. Schoen is American and Hudson is English. As the game progressed and the fouls from RM mounted, it was interesting to hear their dialogue. Schoen would make a suggestive remark on a RM player’s foul but Hudson often wouldn’t take the bait. Many times the Englishman would come back with a comment about how staunchly the Real Madrid side were defending, how actively they were moving, as if the effort involved alone made the rougher play acceptable. By the end of the match though, even Hudson was commenting on the foul play of the Madrid club–but who wouldn’t at that point?

    What struck me was how little mention there was of the actual fouling *in general* made by Real Madrid after the match. There was mention of Marcelo’s nasty scissors tackle and all that ensued afterward, but precious little of the categorical fouling committed by Real Madrid throughout the match. That was disturbing. It took a near catastrophic tackle before many commentators in the media would make comment. Nothing on the incessant rakes of cleats and stepping on of feet–much less the bodily slamming from behind. And, the key word is ‘incessant’. That’s why it mattered, because it was carried out almost in methodical fashion.

    Either Mourinho will get his way and keep that window of violence for Real Madrid to exploit, or UEFA will finally re-educate the Portuguese coach on the rules of the game. Right now, I think Mourinho is holding his own. He hasn’t really won yet, but so far he hasn’t quite been perceived as categorically stepping over the boundaries of what’s fair and foul. And that’s a pity.

  26. So where is our Gamper preview? Eh? We must now concentrate on winning this distinguished and important trophy for the glory of the club and Cesc’s empty trophy cabinet.

    We get unlimited subs in this one, don’t we? If so, this is what I would like to see:

    Alves Mascherano Fontas Abidal
    Cesc Keita Iniesta
    Pedro Messi Kiko

    Montoya Pique Bartra Adriano
    S. Roberto Busquets Thiago
    Cuenca Messi Villa

    Xavi must rest. If Messi doesn’t play both halves (HA!), Pep might stick JDS in the midfield and have only two forwards.

    1. We were really happy with them. Up-with-the-Gods seats to the left of the south goal, but we had a really good angle on the pitch and could see everything. We’ll sit there again if we can’t get our usual halfway seats whenever we go.

      We’ve sat in lots of different areas and heights within the stadium, and we really prefer to be up higher looking down on the pitch. It’s a lot better when you can see the whole movement of the team in relation to the ball – gives a better understanding of the tactics.

    2. You are excused, as long as you write a detailed report and present it to the class 🙂

      BTW, how is your recovery from your padel injury coming along?

    3. I’ll download my images first thing tomorrow and perhaps write a blog post!

      Thanks for asking about my knee. I gave it 2 weeks off from padel and have played a couple of games this week. Still a few twinges but it’s ok. I think that I’ll have to be careful though for a while.

      This getting old-thing is not good! 🙂

    4. Disagree, I would like to see a full stregnth squad playing most of the game.
      1.Our guys have had very little time together and precious little time to gain match fitness. I know this game is supposed to be more of a party than a competition, but it’s a great chance to move our “preseason” forward.
      2.Napoli flew all the way here and according to barcastuff is looking forward to playing us as a way to gauge how well off they are for the season. Besides, playing a full-strength squad shows more respect
      3. I’m selfish, I missed my Barca this weekend, and I want to see my guys play darnit and the above reasons are my lame attempt to justify getting what I want.

    5. If you look at my lineups (and maybe I wasn’t clear that those were lineups for each half), you will see that all of the “best” players get on the field, with the exception of Xavi. I balanced each half with several first team players: Alves, Masch, Abidal, Keita, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi for the first half, and Valdes, Pique, Adriano, Busquets, Messi, Villa for the second.

      If Pep is planning to use Bartra this season, he needs to play at least half of this friendly. Same with Sergi Roberto, Kiko, and Montoya. Thiago deserves some time, as does Fontas.

      And I guarantee you that Cesc will start this game.

    6. I would love your lineups if I wanted this to be played out as the friendly it should be. I just want it to be played as though it were a “real” game at least for a half. Best XI(or thereabouts now that we have more starter-quality guys on the bench(this means I have no problem with Cesc starting)),yes even Xavi, working together. Usually, I’m all for incorporating B/fringe players but we don’t have enough time left to treat this as a preseason friendly. If the strike ends, Porto is Friday and then Villareal comes to town soon after. THE XI needs time together in a game situation (which can’t really be approximated in a practice scrimmage). After we practice, then the other guys can come in. As for Cesc, yeah he can start as he can be considered an option for a starter.

      Alves, Masche, Pique, Abi
      Xavi, Busi, Cesc/Ini
      Messi, Pedro, Ini/Cesc/Villa
      for one half then we can have sub fest!

  27. People, people, people. Here’s the thing:

    Both sides are at fault. Period.

    We sit in here and point fingers at them, they sit over there and point fingers at us. Fact of the matter is that BOTH sides are at fault. No, we don’t posture like we’re innocent baby seals, though from reading some comment boards, many cules do.

    Are we just as much at fault as Mourinho? Depends. It always takes two to start a fight. Let’s look at it this way:

    What if, when Fabregas was fouled, we had let the ref do his job and eject Marcelo? There was no doubt that Marcelo was going to be ejected? Instead, we bum rushed the field, adding fire to an already fraught situation.

    Does this mean that it is entirely our fault? No, any more than it is entirely their fault. Should their coach take culpability for creating an atmosphere that makes such things possible? Sure, but that’s what he always does, so why in the hell didn’t someone, at some point, say “Look, this jackass is in our league now, and this is what he’s going to do. Let’s not exacerbate matters by falling prey to his games. Let’s just keep winning the battles and let the refs do their jobs.”

    Instead, we do the “Poor, poor, pitiful us,” which gives them ammunition for the “Oh, they’re just babies who don’t have the bottle to play the game like men.” And their coach just smiles, because this is precisely what he wants. The more distracted we are, the more he can work on getting us out of our game, and the more that helps his club.

    At some point, we have to be above all that. At the recent track cycling national championships, I was probably the fastest guy there. I’d won my first semi-final ride easily, and was about to win the second, when I was fouled by the rider I was passing. The officials didn’t call it and relegate him, which happens. But I got REALLY angry, violating a lot of personal principles that I had. So in addition to thinking the refs were allowing dangerous riding, I wasn’t happy with my behavior, so I withdrew from the competition. I’d rather have 4th place and my principles, than a championship and compromised principles.

    Athletes make choices. It’s clear that he has gotten to the club and the players. Fabregas’ reactions poat-match were brilliant. “It happens. You do what you gotta do.” That’s all.

    The problem with blame is that it can never be properly assessed. And this all gets outside of the individual acts, such as the ear tweak, etc, etc. At the core of the matter, Marcelo fouled, we rushed the pitch, things went to hell from there.

    A catalyzing influence is a matter of team affiliation, but from where I sit, nobody is blameless in this nonsense.

    Solution? The captains should talk, and decide to play football. Simple as that. When they played football, they were a lot more threatening than when they stopped playing football. Play football, and leave the crap and mind games to the coaches. Was Casillas’ apology a step in the right direction? We’ll see. But the players can stop this all from happening. Not the Liga, not the officials.

    But right now, it’s a shameful situation that tarnishes both sides. And it is those people who will have to fix it.

    1. But the argument of this post wasn’t that we were blameless. I don’t see people here not acknowledging that the diving is wrong, that rising to the bait and leaving the bench and our part in the fracas wasn’t wrong, etc. It was that in aiming for objectivity people and trying to be perceived as unbiased media etc are claiming both sides are *equally* wrong and culpable, but that incessant and dangerous tackles should not be considered equal because they’re not. As Kari said, diving or embellishing is nowhere near physical violence which is also outside the boundaries of the games and could cause damage to a player’s season or even career. I have to agree with her there.

    2. Well i think it is easy to sit here and say that the bench shouldnt have reacted to the tackle (something i do agree with).

      However I think in reality it is a lot more difficult than that. The players are all human and Barca is a very close, tight knit group of players who all care deeply for each other, especially the Masia group. To see Marcelo make that tackle on Cesc right under their noses I dont see how they could not react. It wasnt just a red card offense, it was a horrific tackle, one which had nothing to do with football and was aimed solely at hurting Cesc. He is extremely lucky that he wasnt hurt. De jong made a similar (although not quite as bad) tackle last season on a player in the PL and broke his leg. Cesc was going nowhere with the ball and Marcelo had no chance of getting the ball. The scissor kick was carried out with the sole purpose of injuring Cesc and every player who knows about tackling will know that. I think that is why we saw the reaction that we did. The players, coaches, staff all saw that Marcelo was clearly trying to injure Cesc, not just foul him.

    3. The way that we play, the players are going to take fouls. Lots of them. When Busquets does that slick little drag move with the ball that always fools defenders, the odds that he is going to get fouled are very high. When Messi makes his runs, or Iniesta does his illusionista thing, again, fouls are going to come. Note that Xavi doesn’t take that many hard fouls, because the ball is usually long gone by the time an opponent arrives, thus removing the excuse for a hard foul.

      Yes, there are incidents that are deliberate attempts to foul, such as the kick that Messi took, Pepe elbowing Pique or the Marcelo foul on Fabregas. But there are also a lot of “Damn, we’re good” fouls, or straight-up, professional fouls that stop a play before it gets worse.

      One solution at the administrative levels would be to institute a foul limit, as with other sports such as basketball. At present, a player can foul and foul and foul, with no real repercussions, provided none of them are egregious enough to warrant a card.

      But if something like 3 fouls=yellow, 5 fouls=red, it would change the template of things, and clean up things a great deal, I think.

    4. I made a similar suggestion re foul limits at barcaforum. There should also be a team foul limit, as in basketball. If the team fouls out, as a whole, they could lose a player, have a penalty kick awarded to the opponent, have all subsequent free kicks moved to the top of the penalty box, etc.

    5. Kxevin – I got the biggest laugh from this comment “Let’s just keep winning the battles and let the refs do their jobs.”

      Right, let’s leave it to the ref’s! They seem to be doing a spectacular job.

      “Are we just as much at fault as Mourinho? Depends.” That comment just plain irritates me. I’m not even going to try to make a case, just re-watch the last 5 classicos.

      Violence is not part of soccer. What we are witnessing is violence, make no mistake about it.

  28. Let me state one significant thing upfront: I have been a Madridista from the time Seedorf was keeping Karembeu on the Madrid bench. This means 2 things: 1) I cannot unflinchingly say that I “completely enjoyed the article” and 2) I am, like you, unable to be completely impartial. I would venture to say that’s impossible.

    I must say that you do raise some good points, Kari. As much as I condemn “conning the referee” in the traditional sense – what you term embellishment – I cannot stand up for “conning the referee” by way of feigning complete innocence when you clearly committed a foul. Now as far as how many of these fouls are actually “career-threatening” / “leg-breaking” is a debate in itself. (Nice touch by the way on the “only source of livelihood” part. Talk about embellishing. Ha!) The fact of the matter is Madrid has gone overboard on a regular basis in these Classico matches.

    I commented primarily to raise 2 points for debate. I don’t wish to be a rabble-rouser or, well, a troll. Rather (with the subliminal agenda of defending Madrid in a Barcelona football blog), I would genuinely like to hear cules’ opinions regarding 2 matters in particular:

    1.) Do you not think that the “embellishment” itself is a feature of tiki-taka? You did mention that it hasn’t surfaced in other games apart from the Classicos. But is that not because it hasn’t been necessary since most other clubs have simply not know how to play against Barca’s dominant game? My theory is that the embellishment becomes necessary to ball-retention when Barca is pressed effectively to avoid losing possession. Your take?

    2.) In all these classicos, Madrid has obviously received a lot of cards, and most cules would say, they’ve not nearly been enough. On the other hand, Barcelona’s counter to the physical play of Madrid – to exaggerate every contact – to my estimation has never been so much as reprimanded by a referee in any of these games. Now, modern football has gone in such a way as to favor 2 things above all: the goalkeeper, and in a head-to-head, the attacking player. But if cheating is cheating, and of course it is, hasn’t Barca actually gotten away with much more?

    1. But if cheating is cheating, and of course it is, hasn’t Barca actually gotten away with much more?

      Only if you believe, as you clearly do, that Barcelona exaggerates every contact. Which they don’t. Even Busquets and Alves (the default targets for this accusation) don’t embellish very often. Especially Busi. He got fouled the most often of anyone else on the team last season by quite a wide margin, and was only guilty of embellishing a few times–but of course it is those few times everyone remembers.

      And that is the first and last thing I’m going to say on this matter. I have no desire to get into a discussion no one is going to win.

      Gamper, anyone?

    2. 1. You don’t really see diving in response to pressing, do you? To being harried and surrounded? I see diving in response to fouls, whether disproportionate to the foul or not.

      2. I don’t see how that is Barcelona getting away with much more. If Madrid does illegal fouls but gets away without getting the punishment that some of the really nasty tackles deserve- whether its due to media pressure or feigning innocence and disgust after every nasty foul- and Barcelona dives in response to that, then how is it Barcelona getting away with more? It’s not like the two types of cheating are completely unrelated, like Madrid fouls and a bunch of unrelated Barcelona handballs or something, where only one set of cheating is noticed. One form of cheating- as you said, Madrid going overboard on a regular basis in terms of fouling- led directly to the other. Which doesn’t make the diving ‘correct’, but saying that it means Barcelona got away with more than Madrid did isn’t true I would say.

    3. Firstly, welcome, and thank you for your respectful and reasonable tone.

      Point 1: no, I rarely see embellishment when ball retention fails. Usually when our players are caught in possesion they will turn with the ball or pull it back forcing a reach-in. Nothing wrong with that, it’s skill. Overall, we don’t get fouled as much as you would think we do because we don’t dwell on the ball very long. When we do embellish, it’s ussually in response to a more dangerous sliding tackle. Sometimes when other teams get frustrated and start fouling more recklessly and fouls aren’t being called I see a little more embellishment in an attempt to draw attention to fouls. That’s the only time I think it’s OK (imo). Outright dives are rare, we all hate them here, and Kxevin would always deduct points from game ratings for them.

      3. I don’t see exageration on every contact. If cheating is cheating, please complain about DiMaria as well. Even Pepe blatantly dove in the most recent clasico. And yes, the keepers are too well protected, imo. As for getting away with more, when was the last clasico that Madrid should have finished with XI?

      That being said, I am a cule, you are a madridista. We will continue to see the good our teams do and with a willing suspension of reality, ignore the rest 🙂

  29. But if cheating is cheating, and of course it is, hasn’t Barca actually gotten away with much more?

    No, actually, it’s not.

    That’s like saying if you breaking the law is breaking the law so that all crimes are the same.

    This is what’s so skewed about this entire conversation.

    Violence is different. Period.

    And I’m not talking about everyday game physicality – something Barca sees on a regular basis.

    Barcelona embellishing in not comparable to what Marcelo just did.

    Marcelo easily could have ended Fabregas’ season or even permanently damaged his career.

    The notion that Busquets diving is somehow equivalent to Marcelo’s violence is false equivalence.

    There is no way those two things are the same.

    Of all this Clasico nonsense there are certain events which belong in their own category because they were explicitly violent and could have seriously harmed the well being and health of another person.

    There is no excuse for that.

    And I’m not talking about Xabi Alonso’s recurring poor tackles while trying to tacticaly foul.

    These clasicos have become violent. And there is no excuse for that. None.

    1. Exactly, Euler.

      And also, don’t Madrid embellish just as much as we do (or are accused of doing)?

      Di Maria, Cristiano, Pepe, etc all do it as well. It never gets mentioned because people always accuse Madrid of being too physical and us of embellishing too much, but both sides do it. it’s just that we usually have the ball more than Madrid does.

      So even if we went by your logic, bolls, you’d find that you guys have gotten away with just as much.

  30. So what do you all think about these Afellay transfer rumors. Last one I heard was 8 mil euros and being sent to Juventus…..

    I think we need to keep him, great player with immense potential.

    1. I think it would be utterly ridiculous to sell the guy. We’ve already offloaded Bojan and Jeffren. We aren’t loaded with attackers to the point where we should even feel comfortable with the idea of selling Ibi.

      Hopefully we can toss them in the silly rumors bin.

    2. Silly rumors. FCB has already stated the need to get a bigger squad. Two forwards have left and one forward was bought. If Ibi is sold, we’re back to minus two. It would not make sense to get even thinner than last year especially with the 6 cups and the possibility of a compressed Liga sked.

  31. Barcelona line-up (official): Pinto – Montoya Pique Fontas Adriano – Cesc Keita Thiago – KikoFemenia Villa Iniesta

    Yup. Same idea as my lineups, a nice mix of new and old.

    1. I’d like to see him rest a bit… He’s been playing all preseason. Maybe I’m just paranoid. 😀

    2. Don’t mind Iniesta playing, just don’t like the fact that it seems he’ll be on the wing a lot more this season. Also, Keita at DM seems to be turning into a permanent thing, which someone here (Euler?) suggested would be the case.

    3. You pretty much win, Blitz 🙂

      Now who is in charge of sitting on Messi to keep him on the bench?

    4. Mascherano will distract him with Legos in the first half, but he will play in the 2nd for sure.

    5. It’s at times like this when we miss Gabi the most! Here’s hoping sMasche is up to going it alone.

  32. Hey! Mods! Yoo hoo!

    Assuming there will be no LiveBlog, can we at least have a new post for Gamper comments?

  33. So. A couple of things.

    –First of all, thank you for the compliments everyone. It means so much, and if it wasn’t for such a wonderful community, well, I wouldn’t be writing here and getting shout-outs from Sid Lowe (holy crap! Wow! Thanks, Sid!). Secondly, welcome to all newcomers! Please post more often in the future!

    —The point I didn’t expand on, or clarify, nearly enough was the false equivalency between gamesmanship and the kind of violent tackling we’ve seen in the Clasico. Euler’s pretty much nailed it on the head.

    —Correctly brought up during an email exchange, tactical fouling in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Teams do it all the time. Barcelona, for example, tactical fouls; the latest example being Alexis Sanchez in the first leg of the SuperCopa. He committed something like 9 of our 13 fouls (or some such number).

    He did it because he saw the team was very tired and took it upon himself to press harder.

    Those who play defensive midfield also tend to tactical foul. (Busi and Mascherano in our case, and at times Pique and Puyol, so to answer your first question, bolls, I believe we do tactical fouling over embellishing). If they lose the ball, they tend to just stop the attacker from progressing. “Take one for the team” is the phrase often used.

    As I mentioned in the post, Athletic Bilbao also tactical fouls. Javi Martinez and Gurpegi do it all the time. Chile at the World Cup is yet another example as well. (Which is what is so interesting about Bielsa talking over Bilbao. Exciting to see what he does with them).

    Some teams use it as a way of intimidation. Generally all physical team ‘intimidate’ the other team, and limit the influence they have on the game.

    The thing is, when you use tactical fouling as a strategy, it has its trade-offs. The trade off is you’re going to get penalized and carded.

    The problem is that Mourinho doesn’t want any of trade-offs. He wants to be able to tactically foul and intimidate without any repercussions.

    But even in tactical fouling, there are differences. What Alonso is doing, for example, is not equal to what Marcelo did, what Pepe did, and what Ramos did last season.

    Not only are they not going for the ball — they are going for the player and in a dangerous fashion. The scissor tackle, as Euler pointed out, has been outlawed for some time. It wasn’t just a case of it being a bad tackle, or like any red card. That was an attempt to injure a player — right in front of the benches to boot.

    Why do Madrid seem to think they can get away with attempting to injuring a player, end their career in the case of Marcelo, on the logic that they are “frustrated”?

    Madrid contain players that embellish/dive — Di Maria, Ronaldo, Pepe to name some in the SuperCopa. They just haven’t been in possession enough to show that part– but also those who are violently tackling players.

    So the argument of “cheating is cheating […] hasn’t Barcelona gotten away with much more” does not apply.

    —As for the ‘why didn’t Villa apologize to Ozil’ argument, what Villa did was wrong. No question. He should not have physically hit back at another player, and he should serve an actual suspension. But comparing the Villa-Ozil situation and the Marcelo-Fabregas one is another example of false equivalency (and could also fall into the finger-pointing/distracting category). Both are misdemeanors, but are not on the same scale.

    To try and get this point across, murdering someone and shoplifting are both crimes, but they are not the same thing.

    –Lastly, I haven’t said Barcelona is not at fault. I pretty much explicitly said in the post that they do share some blame. It’s just not equal. But the point isn’t only distributing the blame. It’s what needs to be done to stop what’s going on. And what needs to stop IMO, is the aggressive and violent approach Madrid has taken to these Clasicos. Our player’s health is in danger when we play these games, so it very much involves my team. And that is not an overreaction –it’s fact and that’s what’s disturbing about it. Sadly, I don’t think that will end until Mourinho leaves. To make him leave, we just have to keep winning.

    But it’s important to get the skewed and, well, misguided arguments aside — address them openly — to reach that conclusion. Hence, the post.

    1. I haven’t posted on this article though I have been skimming through many of the posts. A large part of the reason that I haven’t posted is because there has been such a barrage of well thought out and passionate commentary that I wasn’t sure I had anything to say that hadn’t already been said. I am posting now, even though I am not sure that I have anything new to add to the conversation, because I feel compelled to at least weigh in and show support to the many people working so hard to get some clarity on an ugly situation.

      As a native Californian living in Nevada I suffer from the same disadvantage that afflicts most of us in the United States: although I grew up playing football and I have always believed it is indeed the beautiful game, the only world class games I have gotten to watch for the vast majority of my life were World Cup games. It is only in the last five years that I have realized how different club football is from international football. In 2005, with the rights to the 2006 World Cup coverage, ESPN ingeniously began to show more coverage of European club football in an effort to raise national awareness of the game prior to the World Cup. I do not know if this had been tried before, but I was unaware of it if it had. I decided to pick a team to follow because having a rooting interest makes the game more enjoyable, especially if, because you haven’t been able to watch the game at the highest levels your entire life, you don’t have the experience to be able to enjoy a match for its tactical intricacies. I had always been drawn to the Brazilian flair for the game and Ronaldinho was in his prime. It made my choice of teams to support rather simple. I have called myself a Barcelona supporter ever since.

      Even two years ago however, I was still mostly relegated to listening to most Barcelona games on Barcelona Radio, because I didn’t realize I needed to get the collection of Spanish channels in my TV service in order to get coverage of La Liga. Because I couldn’t watch most of Barcelona’s games, I couldn’t get a real sense of what they were doing and, consequently, like probably most fans of most teams, I was very results oriented. I rooted for my team to win.

      Pep Guardiola changed all of that. The team began to splinter after the 2006 Champion’s League winning season. As a results oriented fan, there wasn’t a whole lot to root for, but when Pep came in and coverage everywhere (Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN, Gol TV) was picking up, I was able to watch a lot more. And, as Pep transformed Barcelona, I was also transformed. I stopped caring so much for results because it was clear that what was happening in front of my eyes was a thing of so much beauty that it nearly broke the heart. It was the way the team comported itself, on and off the field, that became paramount in my eyes.

      I have always felt myself to have an exceptionally strong sense of sportsmanship, that a win achieved through dishonest means and the bending or flat out breaking of rules was a pyrrhic victory. The cost of winning in such a way surely must leave indelible marks on the soul. Ironically, just as I was really beginning to appreciate Barcelona for the content of what they were doing and less so for the results, we won the sextuple that year. At this point I was completely entranced by Pep Guardiola’s version of FC Barcelona. (For what it’s worth, Pep putting his arm around Guus Hiddink at the end of the Chelsea semi-final–during some of the most intense end game play I have ever seen and with his team trailing–is the enduring image I have of the man. I believe this moment literally changed me as a person. I have never seen anything like it in a lifetime of watching sport.)

      Please forgive the long winded personal history, but the point of posting it is three-fold:

      One, I hope it is apparent that I appreciate good sportsmanship and abhor unsporting behavior.

      Two, I hoped to show that I love this Barcelona team more than I have ever loved another sports team in my life.

      Three, I wanted to show clearly that I am probably in way over my head when speaking about football tactics and football history. I simply do not have the lifelong immersion in the game to be able to keep up with the many intelligent people in this community discussing passionately on this particular subject

      All that being said, I am going to dive right in and try to tread those waters. If I make any glaring errors, please let me know.

      One of the most distressing aspects of this entire discussion about what went wrong in the clasicos is a three way discrepancy in the placing of blame. Madrid fans blame Barcelona and Barcelona fans blame Madrid. But the disturbing thing for me, as a Barcelona fan, was that neutrals, although I get a sense that they place a higher share of the blame for the most recent games on Madrid’s shoulders, seem sick to death of both sides for their various transgressions (though it must be noted they still feel compelled to watch as the drama unfolds).

      As I watched the games, I thought that the world must surely see what was going. After the ugliness of the game in Madrid last April, I was very proud of our team and the way they handled the heavy handed Madrid challenges. I saw none of the playacting that had marred that Champion’s League game. To be fair, despite the fact that I was up in arms over the professional fouls and some isolated ugliness involving Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo, Mou and Khedira, I even felt that Madrid for the most part wanted to leave April behind and were on decent behavior. Yet clearly, to my eyes, Madrid was the aggressor and any transgressions relating to embellishment from our side was a reaction to Madrid’s tactics.

      Still, most of the neutrals that I have read comments from seem to save almost as much condemnation for our team as they do for Madrid. This is was the big disconnect for me. Something just felt wrong in the way ostensible neutrals were talking about the behavior of both teams. Because it was these seeming neutrals that despised Barcelona’s ‘antics’ as much as they despised Madrid’s overly physical play, I began to have an uneasy feeling:

      I began to suspect that, because of my love of our team and my limited experience with the tactics and history of the game, I was unfit to accurately comment on what actually took place.

      Put another way, when trying to accurately assess what took place in an event–let’s hypothetically propose it was a auto accident, which seems an apt analogy for these games, who are you going to believe is painting the most accurate picture of the event? The driver of either one of the two cars in question, or an uninvolved bystander who watched it?

      If the neutrals were all saying that both teams were nearly equally at fault for the ugliness, it seemed highly likely that they were closer to the truth of the situation than I was.

      With this thought looming in my brain over the last two days, I was despondent and depressed as I was grappling with the idea that I might have to shift my perception of what my beloved Barcelona was, that I might have to accept that in the sporting world there would always be this ugliness. It was an awful, a disillusioning thought.

      After much reflection and some deeper analysis into the nature of my thought processes, I have come to realize that I falling prey to a dangerously subtle affect of fallacious reasoning. One of things that stood out for me in much of the discussion on these games is one particular form of fallacious argument. I don’t know if it has a technical title, but what I saw was this:

      Point A: Madrid pressed very high on the pitch in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

      Point B: Madrid covered up the consequently exposed interior space in front of their back line in part by taking professional fouls when Barcelona players threatened to break the pressing containment and move into the exposed interior space.

      Nobody in their right mind would argue with the first statement. In fact, from every quarter (including myself and other rational Barcelona fans), Madrid was universally praised for their high risk, highly positive approach and many suggested that it indicated Madrid was ‘closing the gap’ on Barcelona.

      I am generalizing here, but the response to point B is very different and what I have seen most often is the shifting of the argument away from the actual observation using a variation on this statement:

      That’s a biased perspective. He’s just a cule.

      Instead of actually refuting the point by going to the video and determining whether or not the statement is, in fact true or false, the responder instead attacks the credibility of the observer. This tactic is so ingrained and was so prevalent in the discussions of this game that I am not even sure if people realized consciously that they were doing it. In fact, in one of the retweets to Sid Lowe, someone said, ‘I agree with some of the points, but it’s obvious that he’s a cule’, as if that somehow negated the validity of the arguments.

      It was so universal and so effective in shifting the argument that I fell prey to this insidiousness, beginning to believe the story that was being told: I began to believe that I was incapable of accurately reporting what my eyes saw because I was a fan.

      (For the record I have seen a few pundits indirectly touch on Point B, but I have seen no refutations of it. Euler directly commented on it in our discussion but I would really like to have a ‘neutral’ expert explicitly deal with it. I am willing to accept that, due to my inexperience, I incorrectly interpreted events on the field, but only if someone logically deals with the observation and points out how I was wrong. Until then I will continue to believe my own interpretation.

      Further, I want to say that, although I have slowly been able to understand ever more of the tactical game over the last three years, reading Euler’s detailed analysis of the second leg changed the way I watch football. For that I will always be grateful. Thank you Euler.)

      I now believe that I was wrong and, further I think I understand why I was wrong, in trusting the opinion of the ‘neutrals’. In my above hypothetical car crash, there are two involved parties and one true neutral. It makes sense to give greater credence to what the uninvolved party’s account of events. Translating this perfectly logical to this discussion, it made sense, when trying to pull back and see the arguments in their entirety, to give more weight to the accounts of ‘neutrals’.

      The turning point for me was when I realized that anyone who watches the game enough, thinks about the game enough, and loves the game enough to write about it either professionally or in blogs is de facto not neutral. The analogy fell apart.

      Now I had to figure out what the so called neutrals were really about and I believe I have a legitimate answer, though in this I am truly moving into deep water:

      Most of the commentary from a neutral perspective has come from English writers.

      FCB is currently assaulting history. From all that I have watched and read, this Barcelona team compares with some of the greatest teams in the history of the game. At the time they began this ascendancy, it was almost universally accepted that the EPL was the dominant league in the world.

      As long as Pep is at the helm, Messi is healthy, La Masia is churning out talent after talent, and the very best creative and technically gifted players (Sanchez, Cesc) want to play for this team, there is no reason to believe that this team will not be the favorite every year for a good long time. In addition, they are doing it playing a style that is unique to them.

      All of these facts put together suggest that FCB is, at the moment, an historically seminal team and, if they can continue this run of play for an extended period of time, it is likely that will go down in history as the greatest team ever.

      I suggest that part of Madrid’s current willingness to dethrone Barcelona even at the risk of abandoning their honor (and can anyone really argue that they are not doing so when they watch Mou’s despicable eye poke) is because this Barcelona team is a very real threat to conclusively cement Barcelona’s place at the summit of footballing history.

      As for the English ‘neutrals’, it is not hard to think that they harbor some resentment toward Barcelona’s potential place in history as the supreme example of what football can be. As the ‘originators’ of the game, to see a team like Pep’s FCB rise from La Liga and completely overshadow what had previously looked to be a dominant era for English club football has to rankle a bit. Any chink they can find in this team will undermine its historical significance, whether they are doing it consciously or not.

      I repeat: there are no neutrals in this discussion.

      For the Barcelona team and its fans, I have one more thing I’d like to ask: Please try to be above reproach.

      For the team, please stop pleading for cards, even when they are deserved; please stop kicking balls away when you disagree with fouls; please stop gesturing to the opposing bench no matter how much you despise what you see there; please make your ball boys available at home matches; please stop clearing the bench even when a comrade is hacked down; and please, please stop punching people even in the heat of a battle you did not start. These things, as has been repeatedly pointed out, are nowhere near ‘equivalent’ to Madrid’s transgressions, but they hurt FCB’s image and throw fuel on fire we would all like to see put out.

      For the fans, please try to be gracious in victory and defeat and keep our commentary as objective as possible.

      I want to express my gratitude to this community for their passion and their open arms. I do not know if I have added anything new to this discussion, but I felt compelled to give my two cents in support of what is trying to be done here.

      Keep up the good work.

    2. well articulated post. it was fascinating to read the process of your realization that there are no neutrals. it should not have taken that long. With this barcelona team, everyone has something to say. Barcelona is also the most ‘accessible’ team right now, in the sense that everyone, if not ‘following’ them, cannot ignore them either. there is just too much good football on show to blindly ignore and passionately support your ‘birmingham’ or ‘stuttgart’. no disrespect to those teams but barcelona has touched a chord in every ‘football’ fan and have obviously caused concern and doubt for a purely ‘club’ fan.

      as for those pleas of yours to the team. dont complain, dont this, dont that and so on… there is a huge danger in an entity being perceived as perfect. not only does it not happen, it is not designed to remain. a lot of us fans, love the fact that this team is human. it gives us lesser mortals something to identify with the team. when guardiola did that cheeky ‘no-give’ to ronaldo in the sidelines in the manita game, i knew it was ‘morally’ wrong. but i loved it. not because i am a cule and TB got insulted. I loved it because it was encouraging to see pep-who-never-says-does-anything-wrong to express a little imperfection.
      and when you love someone, that imperfection is a big part of what you love. sorry if i sound like a clueless hippie but the imperfections assure that it is all REAL.
      Barca has given us fans, in the last few years, those many moments where we are sitting in front of our screens absolutely stunned in disbelief as whether what we are witnessing is something from this world.
      Some purists, and i too think iam one, want this barca to be above all this nonsense, bickering, diving, blah blah.. I too am the first one to criticize Villa or Pedro or Busquets when their shenanigans are exposed. But i think you and I would do well to realize that in order to succeed in sport, there is an act you have to play even if you play the best football. I think it shows the competitive nature of this team to not take anything for granted or leave nothing to chance. And for that lets love them. We may not support the actions all the time. but that needn’t change anything.
      😀 have fun!

    3. Fantastic points and I agree with you on two things in particular: It shouldn’t have taken me so long to realize the ‘no neutrals’ thing and two: I do appreciate that they are human and I understand that I may have sounded a little sanctimonious with all of my please don’ts. The biggest reason I put those in there was to provide balance to my post, to show that I was not blind to the faults. I should have found a better way to do it.

  34. An afterthought on this – started writing it earlier and got side tracked…
    It seems it has been said a couple of times, that there is a difference between the various forms of expected gamesmanship, and trying to disguise unsportsmanlike behavior, as gamesmanship – I mean, the difference between a missed tackle because someone got made fool of or was slow (…this happened to both Xavi and Andres last match by the way and the both tried to reel in their challenge and quickly raised their hands recognizing they were bad challenges…), and a mule kick to a guy’s ribs who is a foot away while the ball is on the other side (thus no reason for the foot to extend toward the player) or a scissor kick, a deliberate scissor kick!, or backing into people back bent over to undercut them when they are in the air in an attempt to cause an uncontrollable fall? – the whole conversation could drive someone crazy because it is so blatantly obvious what is going on, that the rationalizations, let’s take our share of the blame, stay on the moral high ground, etc. smacks of being every bit as disingenuous as the attempts to claim the acts weren’t knowingly or deliberately egregious by those committing them in the first place. It’s a phony when it isn’t called straight, either way – being indignant at a wrong done against you while saying, “it’s ok” is almost as dishonest as being the perpetrator and saying “who?, me?” There can be plenty of debate over who can/should say what, but not about what is pretty plain to see, and that maybe something should be said about it (which one might suspect is going on outside the public view – as may be appropriate too. Just because it is not public knowledge, doesn’t mean there aren’t behind the scene battles).

    Like others have stated I also believe this ultimately sits in the hands of the refs – and we have seen that they can be influenced to permit pushing the limits, right? Doesn’t it then stand to reason that with the appropriate countering dialogue from someone(s) (versus silence) that they can also be influenced to better apply the rules of the game? Or are refs known to be secretly sadistic and can only be swayed to the dark side of the game and not answer the call to restore some order? This has become a very specific problem between a specific set of personalities within in two teams – it is about a “special one” having a reputation at risk from a team he may not know how to beat, and the resulting actions to try to overcome that, the reactions to those actions, and the way the context is being spun in a narrative.

    I remember during the CL final the announcers said something like paraphrasing – ‘we’ve seen no sign of the behavior from Barca that they showed in the semi’ or ‘Barca are on their best behavior’ or something to that effect, and all I could think, was; Really??? this is how they pretty much always look, “well behaved”, except – when they are playing those guys and those guys are doing those things. Action-Reaction.

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