Friday, April 29, 2011

A Match that No One Wanted...Or Won - Part II

There is certainly no Love left anymore

To read the first part of this article which discusses the talking points (or the lack of talking points) in the UEFA Champions League semi-final 1st leg between Real Madrid and Barcelona, click here

A lot of things have been called into say since the match ended; for example Mourinho’s defensive tactics playing at home. Mourinho has never cared for that particular aspect, except the final result, and to be fair, Another Prick In The Wall would consider any tactics laid down by either Guardiola or Mourinho as the words from the Gospel, given their glittering resumes. There’s nothing to suggest that had the red card not changed the course of the match, Mourinho’s team would not have won 1-0. The question here is that of taste, and the blog feels that Madridistas worldwide should not moan considering they knew what their club had signed up for when they hired Mourinho.

The blog is more interested in the shambolic aftermath of this match, which had Mourinho complaining about the referee (what’s new?), going so far as to suggest that Barcelona might be getting an unfair amount of bias from UEFA, terming it as the scandal of the Bernabeu. While this is as farfetched as hoping for Ibrahamovic to score in a big match, APTW puts forth a theory that the real winner in all this mess might just be Michel Platini. To build up the conspiracy theory perpetrated by Mourinho; Michel Platini is a self confessed Barcelona fan. His admiration for the “Barcelona model” is publicized and well known and is in line with his vision of the Financial Fair Play policy (Oh, for one second, please ignore the fact that Barcelona too have spent over 700 million in the same time it took Real Madrid to blow a 1000). So it makes logical sense for Platini to discreetly hand out little Easter eggs to Barcelona in terms of refereeing errors in their favor, so that they can go on and win the big one. “Football triumphed”, as those self obsessed guys in Barcelona would put it and “Financial Fair Play is the correct way to run football as it is also successful” would be Platini’s mantra. Pity, that it doesn’t work that way in reality and APTW doesn't believe that it would ever work this way. However Mourinho did open a can of worms when he left a delicate question hanging as to why Barcelona is the team that manages to play against 10 men on such a consistent basis, year on year. Objectively, it is a question worth pondering about, for the neutral, and Real and Barca fan alike. The answer however may not be the same for any of them.

The only moment of brilliance in a haphazard match

If you thought that the match was shambolic and a downright deregatory affair, the things that have unfolded over the past couple of days have been sicker. Mourinho's delicate question of "Why?" has different answers, most of them which the Barcelona management will not like, which is precisely why the tetchy Rossel management decided to report Mourinho to UEFA and threaten the coach with legal discourse. Barcelona's scandal ridden ex-president Joan Laporta might have talked out of his ass most times in the media, but what he did have was a cunning which enabled him to prevent Barcelona sinking to the depths of pettiness in such a situation. Under Laporta, Barcelona built an image of being humile, modest and skilled guardians of football who wanted no controversy. Under Rossel, where the club management is just itching to report everyone for defamation if they so much as claim that roses dont grow in Barcelona, Barcelona is undoing what they worked so hard to build. Perhaps this is also clear to Guardiola, when he remarked that he will not respond to Mourinho in the press room and if Barcelona wanted someone to, they could hire another coach. In all the melley of various, stronger comments, perhaps this most important of them all was forgotten. It can imply that Guardiola isn't exactly on best terms with the management who might be pressurizing him into doing something that he doesn't really like.

The return of Anarchy
A similar situation exists at Madrid and had already blown its course even before the clasico series began. Real Madrid are obsessed with white, they want it to symbolize everything that the club is about. White. Pure. As they say in Spanish, "White Liquid in a bottle has to be milk". However there is nothing pure about it; it is a carefully built image, an affiliation to be portrayed as the burgeois. Mourinho is the right antithesis of these values. And so it was that Mourinho appealed for support from the club last year, prompting his public spat with Valdano. After a few uneasy weeks, the club decided to back him up in full, and in face of the current adversity the management is even more in support of Mourinho, totally unbecoming a club like Real. Following Barcelona's formal complaint to UEFA, Real Madrid launched its own formal complaint asking for action against the drama troupe that visited their stadium on the day of the match. When push comes to shove, Real Madrid are a club who are masters at using the media to suit their need and their marketing department has been busy flooding the ether with video and pictorial evidence of how Barcelona managed to worm its way through a scandal of epic proportions. In return, Barcelona have remarked that they take offence to Real Madrid's "strategic use of media in portraying things selectively" and no doubt Real Madrid will again respond to this again...what an almighty mess. APTW is reminded of a couple of alley tom cats squabbling over who gets the female cat living inside the house across the street. Worth fighting for, but unrealistic, pointless and uneeded.

In Madrid, in today's date, fans are patronizing about Barcelona. They'll laugh off a Cule's claim of the moral high ground acknowledging that the team they have is great, but that is about it. They are fans who will not hesitate to appreciate a truly brilliant effort, even if it comes from their worst rival. In that mess of the match, most of the incensed Madrid supporters took time to applaud the efforts of Messi who scored a brilliant second goal before reverting back to whistling the ref and the Barcelona team into eternity. However at Barcelona, there is a stark contrast to this particular trait. At Barcelona it is a norm to hate Madrid first, and love Barcelona second. Players and managers are aware and are bred in this philosophy. This is where Guardiola stands out as an exception. If it was not for Guardiola being Catalan and the success he had with the team as player and now manager, he would've been cast off as a black sheep by now by the Barcelona faithful. These are the same set of fans who ask every new, foreign signing if they have learnt Catalan. Mascherano was utterly bemused when he was posed with this question. There have been players who never learnt Catalan at the time of joining, but were instant fan favorites because apart from knowing Catalan, the fans think that their player should hate Madrid. So Cruyff renounced Madrid as Franco's team, Luis Enrique too renounced Madrid as some version of Mordor after his defection to Barcelona and they are hailed as instant favorites. The eccentric Rossel management has taken things further this time. Some of their points on agenda in their formal complaint to the UEFA - like their indignation at not having Catalan being broadcast on the PA system at the Bernabeu (Catalan has never been broadcast at the ESB; It has always been either Spanish or English) with themselves distinctly avoiding anything Spanish over the years, or their complaint about missile throwing when they have been responsible for throwing pig heads, knives and the likes, or their offence to pitch invasion, which was actually a harmless kid you could be forgiven for thinking of as Marcelo's cousin - are not even laughable; not because they are glaringly childish, but because they smack of a distinct case of a small town club, totally unfitting the stature of a club like Barcelona. What makes it worse is Real Madrid playing upto this and responding.

The two clubs, stalwarts of football in their own right, with their carefully cultivated charisma and their long standing obsession for their image and the football they play, are now playing a differnet game, dragging their crap through dirt, not quite realizing that when you throw stones into a dirt pit, you end up getting muddy as well. With all the mud being splashed all around, few seem to have given attention to Sergio Busquet's racial slur on Marcelo, calling him "Mono" (monkey) cheekily with hands around his mouth in an attempt to prevent anyone from knowing it. An incident as blatant as this should have made headlines with the despicable act being punished profoundly; however there is not even a mention of the act anywhere as everyone is now caught up with the bigger scheme of things.

Cruyff famously remarked before the first of the four matches was played, “Guardiola only needs to win two out of the four matches”. Turns out, Barcelona wanted to win just one match. And it wasn’t even on the pitch.


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