Mono. Spanish translation for ‘Monkey’, can be used as a derogatory insult towards someone of black origin. Barcelona Football Club know this, Marcelo at Real Madrid knows this, god, most of Western civilisation is aware of the hatred caused by racism – So why is it when Sergio Busquets is caught on camera during the Champions League Semi-Final 2011 abusing the Madrid full back with this phrase do UEFA not deem punishment necessary?
I’ll let you make up your own mind if you can spot it;
To me, incidents like that should see a 5 match ban for Busquets, UEFA themselves have pressed hard the “Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football” initiative in recent years, and backed heavily Nike’s “Stand Up Speak Up” campaign. So why has Busquets been cleared to play in the Wembley showpiece at the end of the month? Surely actions, or lack of, by UEFA undermine the aforementioned efforts to eliminate racism from the game? Admittedly, Spain has it’s problems with racism, English fans need to only look back to 2004 to remind themselves of the abuse Shaun Wright-Phillips & (C)Ashley Cole were subject to in Madrid, and that went essentially un-punished.
Now, if everyone is thinking; “Hang on a minute, hasn’t Busquet’s been in the firing line before for his sporting conduct?”, well…. You’re right. Last season Inter Milan were reduced to 10 men in their match with Barcelona following this incident. Thankfully, it didn’t effect the outcome of the tie, but looking further back down the line there are a list of examples of Barcelona being the beneficiaries of officiating. More later.
So, are FC Barcelona favourably treated by UEFA? Jose Mourinho seems to think so.
And he just might have a point.
Everyone who watches Barcelona play can see they are a footballing wonder. They dominate possession, they can be clinical, their first touch, incisive passing, ability to close the ball down defensively too. On their day, they are capable of beating anyone.
However, when it’s not their day, and particularly noticeable in The Champions League, they tend to get the ‘rub of the green’.
2011 Champions League Semi-Final vs Real Madrid (first leg), whilst Di Maria was arguably guilty of similar offences, the players of FC Barcelona continually play-acted, feigning injury. Most notably Daniel Alves in his quest to see Pepe red carded. Video replays show that Pepe, whilst being high, did not make any contact with the Brazilian, yet Alves rolled around the ground like he had broken his leg. At the same time, 9/10 outfield players, + goalkeeper Victor Valdes sprinted to the referee, demanding to see a red card – An offence FIFA outlined at the World Cup 2006 was punishable by a yellow card for unsportsman-like conduct.
2011 Champions League Round of 16 vs Arsenal at Camp Nou (second leg), with the tie poised at 1-1 (3-2 to Arsenal on aggregate), the Londoners were positioned to go through to the Quarter Finals. Van Persie, already on a booking is sent through on goal and lashes his shot sky high and wide. In the build up, Van Persie had been flagged for offside, the referee then deemed Van Persie shooting as an act of dissent, punishable by a yellow card, his second of the match. Replays showed that Van Persie had enfact shot 0.6 seconds after the whistle was blown, a whistle the Dutchman claimed to have not heard due to the 90,000 crowd’s atmosphere. Reducing Arsenal to 10 men allowed Barcelona to bring the full backs into play more, and ultimately the Catalans ran out winners. Looking further back, there’s evidence to suggest Barcelona’s equilising goal in 2006 Champions League final vs Arsenal was offside, too.
….. There’s a pattern developing.
Back a further few years to 2008, to what Jose Mourinho described as ‘a scandal’ in his post-match Bernabeu interview (2011, above), and Champions League Semi-Final vs Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (2nd leg), Chelsea being eliminated by the away goals rule thanks to a sublime Andres Iniesta strike late in the match. But the controversy came in the refereeing decisions once again; now, I’m by no means a Chelsea fan, enfact, I rather dislike the club as a whole, but I can see 3 penalties for them in the 2nd leg, ask many Chelsea fans and they claim they can see 10+. Again, please, make up your own mind with ITV’s highlighted 4.
Is it UEFA? Whilst refereeing decisions have the benefit of replaying to analyse, the Sergio Busquets racist comments were put to a panel and dismissed – Can they be serious? Have they bottled making such a big decision which would affect such a big outcome? In 2008 when Darren Fletcher was wrongly red carded late-on vs Arsenal in the Semi-Final, missing the Final - UEFA upheld the decision then, (meaning Fletcher would not feature against FCB) in my opinion, wrongly. Different club, different rules?
Is football elitist? – I think we all know that’s a yes, particularly whilst Blatter and Platini are at the head of their not so respected governing bodies. My personal quarrel was the decision to seed the World Cup European Play-Off draws for the first time in 2010, coincidentally the year in which France did not qualify automatically.
Is it a question of culture? Does Spanish football simply have no shame in cheating in order to gain the upper hand? It would appear not, but my question needs to be of Pep Guardiola, having played in successful Barcelona sides which had an aura of commanding authority, who played fairly and out-skilled their opponents, why wouldn’t he alter the on-the-field actions of his players? Barcelona clearly know that reducing their opposition to 10 men increases their chances of passing through them, is getting a player sent off a game plan? They are surely conducting themselves outwith the desired nature of the game?
During Mourinho’s post match interview from the Champions League Semi Final, he praises the footballing abilities of Barcelona, but questions the need for such a great team, capable of such great things, to be handed the upper hand in matches when things aren’t going well for them. To that point I agree. Therefore, despite my Premier League dislike for the club, for similar reasons, I will be supporting Manchester United in the Champions League Final, because what they have achieved, who they have beaten – Fairly – in order to earn the right to play at Wembley, is far more deserved of my support.
Barcelona are a good team, at times they have the ability to showcase not only what I like about watching football, but what I aspire to in playing football. But for every Dr. Jekyll there’s a Mr. Hyde. And until they can win a Champions League trophy not tainted in scandal (and should they beat United I assure you that will not be one), they will not have my backing.
This debate in particular is close to my oh so opinionated self, so any comments/feedback etc will all be published regardless. I welcome your input.Follow @_the12thman
Over and out.