Ignore the Bleating, It’ll Be Okay

I thought we were beyond this, but I guess not. So here goes, another rant about the men with Wu-Tang symbols on their arms…

They may not be your friends, but they are also not your enemies. At best, they are a neutral force that disappears into the recesses of your mind to the point where you can’t even remember that there was one. Like with Pierluigi Collina, except he looked like a cross between Gollum and Sam Cassell so it was impossible not to notice him. But he always reffed properly: from the shadows, as if (imagine this) he wasn’t actually an actor in the game, but rather an adjudicator when there was no other option.

In Spain, that is rarely the case. Refs yell at players and puff out their chests. They blow their whistle and ostentatiously strut to the spot of the foul. They whip out cards with flourishes I would expect at a bullfight (I do cultural references so well, you guys). They are, in short, involving themselves in the drama that is the sporting event rather than playing their part and moving on. We know their names because we think of them as being on the field.

But they are not corrupt. They are not biased. That should be stated in the clearest language. In a comment on a previous thread, Ramzi wrote, “When I reach a conclusion that there is certainly a conspiracy, I stop watching the Liga. Not just for the seasons Barça lose, but forever as it doesn’t make sense to keep watching [if it’s corrupt].”

It’s a wonderful point. If you think the refs are biased, if they’re corrupt, if they’re handing the league title to Madrid, then either take it to criminal court or stop watching. If you think that the offside call against Alexis Sanchez in the Osasuna match that disallowed what would have been the tying goal was deliberate, then RFEF should be receiving your petition shortly and we’re all suckers in this pro wrestling event.

The specifics of that call are clear: Sergi Roberto was adjudged to have touched the ball on its way to Alexis Sanchez who was, at the time Sergi Roberto was adjudged to have touched the ball, in an offside position. I watched the replays of it this morning, having missed the match, and, knowing going in that Sergi Roberto did not touch the ball, I thought it was fairly clear that he touched it on his way through. Assuming that that was the call made on the field, it was the correct call from the linesman’s perspective. It looked like he touched it!

The same linesman is the one who blew the call leading to the 2-0, of course, so you can let your conspiracies go onward, I suppose. I think it’s fair to point out that the calls haven’t been favorable to Barça this year over the whole of the season, yet to suggest that also suggests that they should be favorable. They shouldn’t be favorable. They should be correct, yes, that is for sure, and I think RFEF has a long way to go before they have good refs, but to suggest that these refs are intentionally biased is not only foolish at the moment, but will bite you in the bum in the future the instant a wrong call goes your way.

I’ll be clear: I think complaining about referees is acceptable, so long as you say what they did wrong, not why they did it incorrectly. Until you can show that Ref X is related to Florentino Perez or received a large bank transfer the night before a match, you should lay off the conspiracy. It won’t get you anywhere. As it is, Barça has all of the advantages (money, representation, power) and few, if any, disadvantages. It is fair to say that Madrid have benefited from lenient reffing, but that leniency has been systematic throughout the year and Barça simply do not play that tough, boot-in-first-ask-questions later way.

It is fair to say that Madrid have benefited from poor reffing decisions such as the offside call against Mallorca when the player was on his own half, but it would also be fair to point out that Robin van Persie was sent off for an innocuous kick of the ball in the Champions League last year. It would also be fair to point out that the referee got it wrong just a few days ago when Pinto clearly handled the ball outside of the box in the Copa del Rey match against Valencia.

Kevin wrote in a comment: “Because if [Barça’s system] was working the way that it was supposed to, we would be leading the table, looking forward to maintaining position and doing the deed in the coming home Clasic. But none of that happened now, did it? It’s easy to blame other folks, but it’s all on us. All of it.”

Well said. Now enjoy your Champions League matchday. It should be a good one.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. messifan
    February 14, 2012

    Pique is dropped, Xavi is not fit and the bench is full of kids! I need an easy button.

  2. February 14, 2012

    And another thing …. in the past, we were already up 3 or 4-0, so if we got a funky offside call, who cared? We just giggled and scored some more, right? Every thing gets more intense when there is less margin.

    Well, said, Isaiah.

    • G6O
      February 14, 2012

      We had a lot of wrong calls in situation win which we were up 3 or 4 or 5-0 this year too. Remember that absurdly disallowed Iniesta goal:

      12:20 in that video:


      We were getting these kind of calls in the games we were steamrolling the opposition too. It didn’t matter that’s correct.

      The problem is that there are games in which it DOES matter. And there were that kind of games in the previous three seasons too. People forget that we didn’t win all our league games with 5-0 scorelines during those seasons – there were a lot of close games, especially on the road. Calls should be correct, not in favor of any teams – this is precisely the point. Calls have not been correct and this has cost us A LOT OF points while we haven’t really won any points due to calls going incorrectly our way and on top of that EE has won a lot of points from incorrect calls going their way. How can you say that we should just not pay attention to that?

      Is there a conspiracy? Nobody said that. It is a possibility, Spain is a very corrupt country so I wouldn’t be surprised. But there is no need for an organized campaign behind the scenes to have caused referees to ignore all those penalties against Messi, to call offside when the ball was passed back by a defender and all the other BS that we’ve seen. Subtle psychological pressure combined with a general feeling among people who are not Barca fans that Barca have won too much these last three seasons is enough to cause referees to blow the whistle the other way any time there is any doubt.

      Yes, it would have been nice if we were able to overcome all that and still win, but we’re not. We’re also battling injuries and fatigue. Combine all three and it becomes too much. But you can not just ignore referee mistakes when there has been so many of them as a factor, it has been a big one so far

  3. mega_tajh
    February 14, 2012

    Pique not even on the bench. A good lesson. Xavi injuried after resting for 2 games??? Damn.

    • mom4
      February 14, 2012

      Xavi played against Valencia, right? So a 1 game rest. Still… craptastic news!

      • February 14, 2012

        House fires, car crashes, now players getting injured while resting. Make it stop!

    • mom4
      February 14, 2012

      FSC says”
      Alves, Mascherano, Puyi, Abi
      Cesc, Busi, Ini
      Alexis, Messi, Adriano

      Couldn’t get a close enough look at Messi warming up to see if he shaved…that could be the deciding factor 🙂

  4. Lev
    February 14, 2012

    yup, EMD has got the lineup out:



    Roi Eric–Puyol–Masch–Dani Alves

  5. lyd
    February 14, 2012

    Thanks for this article. Shows the class of Cules.

    Ive actually learned to live with all those human errors (offside and anti-penalty calls). But the following aspects of referring still baffles me:

    1. Okay we dominate possession all the time. But why does that give our opponents the justification to get so physical and get away with it? Its getting progressively worse, especially with EE. And that is no conspiracy rather a plain observation. Shouldn’t the other teams learn to press intelligently like Bielsa’s and Emery’s men? instead they attempt to play like headless chickens? It seems that most refs work for the “force of entertainment” where they should really work for the “force of evolution”.

    2. Less margin of error when we tackle. Again that is like affirmative action for the other team. World class players on the other teams can not get away with misplaced tackles in the midfield/our half, when there is not apparent immediate threat. Teams are taking advantage of the leniency the refs show them in the early stages of the first half. Its obvious. Pre-meditated aggressiveness is like cancer for the game.

    3. We see yellow cards for time wasting. That is retarded! A team that keeps above 65% most games should not be treated that way. A little more respect perhaps based on current reputation?

    All Refs should sit down and think about where the physicality of the game is heading. They have the power to set the standards the right way.

    • G6O
      February 14, 2012

      What I don’t understand is where this idea comes from that we should be able to win despite the referees. The idea is that the better team generally (even if not always) wins.

      In a a situation in which a player has been released 1 on 1 vs the keeper with a through ball we have outplayed the opposition. So if the ref calls a nonexistent offside, we have outplayed the opposition but the goal is disallowed. When we’re at our best we do that 10-15 times a game, we score 5 or 6 goals and if they disallow one or two of them, it doesn’t matter. That’s correct. But when we’re not at our best we do that 3 or 4 times a game and score once or twice and it does matter. The point that’s missed is that we are typically still the better team in such games (the only teams that have come close to outplaying us in the league are Bilbao and Valencia) and such decisions do actually rob us of a deserved victory. Did we play like crap against Espanyol? We did. Were we the better team in that game? Yes, we were, even if by far from the usual margin, and we showed it by setting up a great goal scoring opportunity in the 5 minutes we had to do that after the equalizer. But a goal-bound shot was blocked by a handball which wasn’t given. We win the three points there, the difference remains 3, maybe we go into the following games in better condition and we don’t end up 10 points down.

      No team should be expected to win all the time with one or two goals handicap in a third of its games. That’s not how the game is supposed to be played.

      Yes, we’ve benefited from wrong referee decisions a number of times in the past (the Shevchenko goal in 2006, the Chelsea game, etc.). That’s true and we have to admit it. But this season there are simply too many of these calls going against us to ignore that.

      • lyd
        February 14, 2012

        Historically Barca’s game evolved under a series of oppression. The game evolved in such a way that we dont have to complain about refs or luck. The idea was to impose a philosophy so that we win most of the times. We are still doing that if you look at the statistics. Just EE are more hungry and got the element of luck, which is understandable if you consider the psychology or the subconscious states of most refs.

        When Guardiola came, he triggered a sharp peak in the evolution. Changed the game for others as well. Teams like manU, Munich, Chelsea realized that need to consider to challenge barca in the long run only. They were forced to look at the bigger picture (good for the game) and went back to basics. And La liga teams took three long seasons to finally catch up. Or rather they have exploited the wounded. If you look from their prism, the universe of blaugrana is still red-shifted. Just our rate of expansion is less than before.

        Football is at the end of the day, just business/entertainment for many. Football romantics + A particular clubs fans are negligible compared to the total people/elements involved. And its so called a men’s game. Most refs see it that way. Very few are actually romantics. So you cant really blame them for those offside calls because they make those decisions in some split nanoseconds. I think they are biased not against barca but for their own personal philosophies of the game. In that split second, their mind makes the reality different and suited to the entertainment factor/beliefs. Brains can do wonders! Its like the neutrals are affecting their decision making. Because the neutrals dont want monopoly or dictatorship in the game, which barca has demonstrated with their total football. Even in the Ronaldinho/rijkaard era the world witnessed magic. If you look back, its been a long ongoing absolute domination, except for a few seasons.

        People likes the idea of unpredictability/uncertainty in the game. They sometimes likes to see players do it like the gladiators. And same people runs this entertainment business. People in betting agencies wants people to make them force wrong decisions. People are people and refs are people too. They would want to influence the current history to their liking and advocate physicality. You cant really prove things anyhow or blame them for doing things wrong.

        Better teams do wins, but since when did a better team kept winning for so long and such with flair? The idea is to build an enduring legacy. We are on the right track.

        I’d take 7 liga titles in 10 years than win 4 in a row then starve for half a decade! Plus some consecutive Cls 😀

        Bottom line:
        We have to win despite the refs. Sad but its the only way! Better accept it fast.

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