by Yomi Kazeem
It’s a perfect picture; Barcelona FC are football purists, great custodians of the beautiful game as we have come to know it. Year after year, they churn out champions off a seemingly endless conveyor belt of talents, while winning trophies with incredible regularity. The players are angels who can do no wrong, complete with halos-unattached-hovering over their heads. Right?
Wrong! Beneath all that perfection and all-white sainthood lies a collection of referee favours, accidental decisions and a splash of the colour red in cards. Even though they have great amazing wonders masked as players and their tiki-taka which is a special type of one of a kind and of course the awesome little Argentine with an even more awesome left foot- Lionel Messi, some of Barcelona’s victories certainly leave a bad taste in the mouth.
Ask Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Real Madrid, Chelsea and the many players who have been sent off or lost a game, rather unjustly against Barcelona. While it is perfectly OK for referees to get the odd decision wrong, when such things become a steady occurrence with one all-conquering team as regular benefactors, then it stops being perfectly OK. Too many times, against too many opponents, Barcelona have been benefactors of wrong refereeing decisions to the dismay of their opponents.
In the 2nd leg of the 2008 Champions League semi-final at Stamford Bridge, decision after decision went against Chelsea just as valid plea after valid plea from blue shirts were denied. If the referee, Tom Henning Ovrebo, had adorned a Barcelona jersey after the game, it would have been the perfect ending to Barcelona’s Cinderella story on the night as they progressed to the final.
Various encounters against perennial arch-rivals Real Madrid have ended sourly and the rancour between both Spanish clubs is at a zenith that is unprecedented in recent times. Long lengths of stoppages, bad tackles, a flurry of cards and play-acting have become part and parcel of a game touted as one of the biggest in the world. The negative antics of the Galacticos have no place in football and neither do the many red cards and Barcelona’s theatrics and constant whimpering all aimed at trying to influence the referee. While Jose Mourinho’s outlandish suggestions that Barcelona get help from UEFA and UNICEF were out of place, they make you stop and think.
Some of the Barcelona players, with Daniel Alves and Sergio Busquets as the main culprits, would not look out of place in a Hollywood movie and may yet have another career in Los Angeles- such is the strength of their acting skills. Clutching their faces in despair, writhing in painful agony or falling to the ground as though they just took a bullet, you wonder what else they’ll need to do to win an Oscar. In footballing circles, such behaviour, while despised, is not uncommon but coming from players of a team who are heralded as purists, it smacks of hypocrisy.
In all of this, you can take little away from Pep, Messi and the rest of his gang but when in some games it seems as though the work is half-done by referees in awe of the footballing majesty being played out in front of them, maybe you can take something away from them. Football will only be devoid of human errors if FIFA accepts the use of video technology. In a twisted way, the little errors and swings of the pendulum of football justice, add to the fun and make the game all the more unpredictable, unless of course, you support a Catalan team that sports red and blue stripes.