The Secret Footballer: Why battle of Bernabéu sent me to bed cursing

Joss

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The Secret Footballer: Why battle of Bernabéu sent me to bed cursing

What angered me was the way both sets of players, but particularly Barcelona's, kept hitting the ground



Sergio Busquets of Barcelona, left, deserved the Oscar for his theatrical performance against Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid. Photograph: Angel Martinez/Getty Images​

If there is one constant beginning to emerge after Real Madrid and Barcelona lock horns, it appears to be that for as long as José Mourinho remains in charge at the Bernabéu, the term used to describe the most eagerly awaited fixture in Spain – El Clásico – is becoming at best ironic and at worst a downright lie.

At first glance it appears as if Mourinho is the man to blame for turning a once great game into a huge anticlimax, employing as he has some of the most negative tactics ever seen at Real Madrid and then rambling incoherently about red cards, phantom Catalan power and, most bizarrely of all, the charity Unicef.

I had been looking forward to two giants going toe to toe, which thanks to Madrid's approach was never going to happen. For a football club who pride themselves in having the best attacking players, this would have been hard to swallow. An open letter to Marca, the staunch Madrid paper, penned by the Special One, would have been an easier way to tell the world that Real, despite their spending power, are still light years behind their fiercest rivals.

That is not to say Barcelona played a fair game. Despite all of the above, what angered me intensely was the farcical way in which both sets of players, but particularly those in Barcelona shirts, showed an insatiable appetite to hit the ground like a three-year-old whose mum won't buy him sweets. It ruined the game and sent me to bed cursing what football is fast becoming.

Almost every player had a go at conning the referee. Carles Puyol and Sergio Ramos, who were vital to Spain's World Cup success, squared up with alarming regularity over the most innocuous of tackles. Both goalkeepers raced from their box to the scene of the latest flashpoint to pour fuel on the fire. Even one of the substitute keepers got involved and was sent off. Dani Alves, after a very heartfelt rendition of the dying swan, did for Real Madrid's Pepe, who arguably should have known better than to even breathe near the Brazilian, and Pedro was just as bad. One man, however, stole the show and his simulation and lack of shame were phenomenal. The Oscar went to Sergio Busquets.

I know the Premier League is far from perfect but imagine if we had to watch that nonsense every week. In England I like to think this behaviour remains something of a taboo, not least because our fans wouldn't tolerate it and neither would the players.

We have been blessed with many great foreign players in this country, and some came with reputations for diving, like Jürgen Klinsmann. Yet the way they performed once they were here left me thinking that the only reason their reputation was earned in the first instance is because their cheating was tolerated and even encouraged in the past. England players have, on occasions, been criticised for not being as "streetwise" in tournaments as other nations. Yet what we lack in technical ability we make up for with an unwritten ethical code.

Theo Walcott issued an apology in January after he admitted diving in an FA Cup tie against Leeds United, and a couple of years earlier Wayne Rooney apologised to Sir Alex Ferguson for doing the same in a Manchester United shirt. What chance Pedro, Busquets or Alves saying sorry?

I recall being punished for a foul on a foreign player a couple of years back. His English team-mate wandered over to me while surgery was being performed (there was a lot of spray used), put his hand on my shoulder and said: "You picked the wrong player there, a fly would put him on the floor. He'll be up and running about in a minute." There is a fine line between being streetwise and cheating. For example, a striker running through on goal with a defender in tow is taught to cut across the defender. This does two things: it buys the striker time as the defender has to check his step and it also means that should the defender clip him, the opposition will be left with 10 men and he'll also have the chance to convert the penalty.

That is arguably logical and clever play. Strikers that take the ball around the goalkeeper, over-hit their touch and then decide to take a tumble are cheating but occasionally there is more to this than meets the eye.

I played with a foreign player who was a master at winning free-kicks after minimal contact. Our manager loved him and would say to us: "You all need to be more streetwise like Paolo," which roughly translated meant we "should all cheat more like Paolo".

As far as play-acting is concerned Uefa has never really clarified its position on retrospective punishment but the European governing body is about to introduce new laws on financial fair play. For a player, an English player at that, fair play on the pitch is a more pressing concern.

Obvious sanctions would include banning players who writhe around in agony when cameras prove there was no contact. I would actually like to see a player shown his misdemeanour and be forced to explain it. "So, Sergio, you picked the ball up here, nice turn, and Pepe clearly takes away your legs. Can you just tell the viewers why you're holding your face at this point?"

In the end it was once again left to the greatest player on earth to provide the fireworks and restore a little bit of my faith in the beautiful game. One of his best attributes is that he doesn't dive; he takes the kicks, gets up and gets on with the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo once said that God put him on this earth to play football. We'll have to ask Lionel Messi if he remembers doing that.

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Vanjagl

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Cristiano Ronaldo once said that God put him on this earth to play football. We'll have to ask Lionel Messi if he remembers doing that.
Sigh.
Anyway... I don't see how's this thread necessary, it's going to turn in Barca vs Real thread or Ronaldo vs Messi thread. But guy who wrote this has right, diving is bad, we all hate divers... and it took the game from the pitch. Shame.
 

GodCubed

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Paolo eh? Hm.

Very good article from the Secret Footballer as ever, I enjoy these columns. Oh, and the last part just shows why we all love Messi; he is fluid as water but tough as granite.
 

alexmos93

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Barcelona is the most whinning team i ever saw.They said Mourinhos approach destroys the game.They have to watch this match again to see who destroyed it.And i decided that i want to be an actor so i think ill take my lessons at Barcelona.
 

Joss

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Sigh.
Anyway... I don't see how's this thread necessary, it's going to turn in Barca vs Real thread or Ronaldo vs Messi thread. But guy who wrote this has right, diving is bad, we all hate divers... and it took the game from the pitch. Shame.
Of course there's a point to this thread - it's a very good article so I decided I would share it for people who haven't read it/haven't seen his columns before/don't read the Guardian.

Paolo eh? Hm.

Very good article from the Secret Footballer as ever, I enjoy these columns. Oh, and the last part just shows why we all love Messi; he is fluid as water but tough as granite.
Heh - Paolo Umm... Er...

Getting all poetic I see. It's admirable that he doesn't ruin his talent like so many others do - It really shouldn't be admirable, though. It should be taken for granted that players play football and are honest but it's simply not the case for so many in the modern game.

I still think he's overhyped during matches, though. Not that he isn't a good player but that whenever he plays a one-two or shoots 15 yards wide (rare, I admit), the commentators go crazy however successful or impressive it ACTUALLY is.

Barcelona is the most whinning team i ever saw.They said Mourinhos approach destroys the game.They have to watch this match again to see who destroyed it.And i decided that i want to be an actor so i think ill take my lessons at Barcelona.
Both teams were pretty awful but Barcelona's "mightier than thou" attitude is increasingly annoying; I wish they'd get off their high horse for once - Just because they're "the best team in the world", it doesn't give them a right to behave like they do on and off the field.

I really hate Busquets as well - he's pathetic in the way he holds his face whenever someone breathes near him. He got Motta sent off before and he was forever trying to get Madrid players sent off in all of the Clásicos.
 
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To be honest...Madrids diving was nothing compared to Barcas.

I know that Di Maria especially is the diver for us. Ronaldo has pretty much stopped diving..he still does sometimes. But atleast they don't hold their face like Biscuits, Mascherano and Pedro etc...

I think Ronaldo and Messi were both classy. Ronaldo who has usually been involved in all bust-ups that happens on the pitch..haven't been involved in them recently.

Alves getting carried from the pitch and bombing the right flank 2 minutes later was disgusting. As was diving from the players..especially Barca.

And Valdez running 50m to the ref and press him to give cards etc. This was clearly barcas tactic to destroy madrids tactic.
 

Vanjagl

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Of course there's a point to this thread - it's a very good article so I decided I would share it for people who haven't read it/haven't seen his columns before/don't read the Guardian.
Without a doubt. Still, this thread is going to turn into Real vs Barca.

---------- Post added at 11:39 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:35 AM ----------

Zabrinutost
Hahaha, found this... Translation would be "concern for the player" and its true. No one run to help Alves.
 

sunilvk7

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Both goalkeepers raced from their box to the scene of the latest flashpoint to pour fuel on the fire. Even one of the substitute keepers got involved and was sent off.

Casillas is too classy to do that. Only time he came running was to act as peacemaker. Valdes? LOL. I cant abuse him anymore. He got very good back up in Pinto.

Dani Alves, after a very heartfelt rendition of the dying swan, did for Real Madrid's Pepe, who arguably should have known better than to even breathe near the Brazilian, and Pedro was just as bad. One man, however, stole the show and his simulation and lack of shame were phenomenal. The Oscar went to Sergio Busquets.
Couldn't agree more.

Good article..
 

Athe~

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Slightly of topic - the only Paolo I remember in the Prem is Di Canio, which narrows it down to 3 clubs.
 

alexmos93

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How can you name youreself the best team in the world when doing like they did?And btw (i think it's off topic) i hate it when Barca fans start yelling they won and they're better when they had 4 games when Madrid played 1 man less and they managed to beat them once draw and get beaten.It's so obvious Madrid can win even if it's hard to do it when 11 vs 11(see cup result).And i didnt say they can win EVERYTIME.Anyway nice analyse, i think the same way as you do (just i cant express myself as you :D) and i hope i can see the last El Cl4sico with 2 hard-working teams that play for the game and not to destroy it.
 

curtis290

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Pedro and Busquets dive and complain a lot, and Alves can a bit of a diver too (not more than your average Brazilian though). Barca also likes to crowd the ref too. But every team has its divers and complainers, and even in the Prem there are players who dive and make a huge show of it. Both sides were terrible in that game, but all I've heard about this week is how much everyone hates Barca and how much they are rooting against them now no matter who they play. It's annoying because now all of the sudden Barca and Spaniards are the ones who crowd the refs. Last year it was the "typical Germans" and now the Spaniards are the enemy. I also can't believe how many new Real Madrid supporters there are. I've always liked Real Madrid for their devotion to style but they are arguably the most hateable club on the planet (huge club that buys success and doesn't pay its debt, their arrogance, etc.). Usually people root against them, but everyone seems to have become an RM supporter recently. There's this "holier than though" attitude that Barca supposedly has that everyone accuses them of (and gets quoted constantly), but do they really? 'More than a club' isn't arrogance, it's an indicator of the political and national significance of Barca. They come from a storied city with a separate ethnic group and language, and this is that groups most successful club. They're going to be proud, and for them, it is more than a club. I don't really see this as being particularly arrogant. The big teams in any country are arrogant. ManU is, Bayern is, Inter is, Boca Juniors is...they all are pretty arrogant and think they're the best. And Real Madrid is possibly the most arrogant of them all. But I digress.

Both sides were bad, but I think you have to appreciate the context in which these games took place. Take two teams with a long history of hatred towards each other (because of the national and political element you could say it's the strongest rivalry in all of sports in the world) and have them play each other 4 times in 19 days where the stakes are the highest (the league, cup, and champions league all being fought for). This is a recipe for disaster. There is going to be a lot of controversy, and by the third game there's going to be a lot of complaining to the refs and diving. It's going to get ugly. If you put any team in this circumstance, that will be the outcome. If Liverpool and ManU played under the same conditions, I guarantee you there would be a lot of the same stuff happening.

Also, you have to keep in mind that one of the sides parked the bus and played anti-football consistently throughout the series. That leads to this type of behavior. When one team plays with ultra-defensive and physical tactics, often times the result is constant diving and complaining to the ref on both sides. During an open game this doesn't happen nearly as much. No one wants to stop the game to dive or complain because that disrupts the rhythm of the game. But when you have a ****** game of football, which is what the games turned into, thanks to JM's negative tactics, you're going to bring out the worst in everyone involved. Notice that this type of behavior didn't happen that much in previous superclasicos. It's only in the last few that this has come out. The difference here is that the in the last two or three one team came out extremely defensively and tried to play a very negative game, which doesn't really happen in superclasicos.

I think it's pretty disappointing that no one has criticized JM for his tactics. First of all, they were what turned the game in to what it was, with all of the diving, bitchiness, and complaining. Second, people complain about diving and complaining to the refs for ruining a sporting spectacle, even if those things are legal (you're allowed to exaggerate contact, pretend you're hurt, complain to the refs, etc.). It's not about whether those things are against the rules or not, it's that they are viewed as poor sportsmanship and something that ruins the on-the-field-product for the fans. The players have the obligation to give us a good spectacle, and even if doing all of this bullshit helps them win we expect them not to do it. But for me, playing negative football is the exact same. You are doing something that isn't against the rules in order to help you win, but it's cheap and ruins the game for the fans.

I don't see how these two are different. In fact, I prefer complaining, injury-faking, and perhaps even diving to negative football. This is probably because I spent time in South America and love South American football. Diving, acting, and complaining are so commonplace that I'm pretty desensitized to it. It's annoying, but it generally doesn't really effect the game all that much (unless a player takes a dive when contact didn't occur in order to win a penalty or something like that). The complaining stops the game for a few seconds, as does the play-acting, but it doesn't have an impact of what's happening during the game. The tactics and the attractiveness of the football do though. They effect the product during every single second of the game. That, to me, is much more important than the few seconds of annoyingness when the play stops. Which is why I'll watch an Argentine or Brazilian league game over a Premiership game (if it's not important)...there isn't much diving in the Prem (though the foreign players do sometimes), but I'd rather watch a bunch of divers if I like their style of play better.

In sum, Barca and Real Madrid's attitude was very poor the last two games but under the circumstances I don't blame them too much, and I think they're (well Barca mostly) is getting way too much negative press because people need a reason to hate them. They're doing well very recently and they're doing it in style, except they aren't doing it by simply buying all their best players (ie the Galacticos). So the media goes on about them constantly and a lot of people support them recently, which will make a lot of other people want to see them lose. Particularly fans of big clubs who all of the sudden aren't getting the attention and media adoration. I mean Ferdinand and Owen tweeting about Barca diving...how often do you see dives in football, and how often do you see players on other teams (in other leagues) complain about it publicly, and if anything, the last two superclasicos weren't much different than a typical South American game. If your opponent does it well of course you're going to complain about it, but I think the fact that players in different leagues feel the need to comment on it shows that some people are getting a bit jealous of the media adoration.
 

Joel`

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I think I'm going to start liking Curtis' post automatically for the sheer effort that goes into each one.
 

curtis290

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I think I'm going to start liking Curtis' post automatically for the sheer effort that goes into each one.
I knew if I worked hard enough I might gain a fan or two! :p Too bad I don't get paid by the word though.
 

*Jones*

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The sad thing is, diving has become a part of the modern game, and it annoys me how some think the English players are exempt from diving, as they still do it.

cba to comment on Barca/Madrid, as I've made my thoughts clear on the game/the teams in several other threads
 

*Paul*

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To be honest...Madrids diving was nothing compared to Barcas.

I know that Di Maria especially is the diver for us. Ronaldo has pretty much stopped diving..he still does sometimes. But atleast they don't hold their face like Biscuits, Mascherano and Pedro etc...

I think Ronaldo and Messi were both classy. Ronaldo who has usually been involved in all bust-ups that happens on the pitch..haven't been involved in them recently.

Alves getting carried from the pitch and bombing the right flank 2 minutes later was disgusting. As was diving from the players..especially Barca.

And Valdez running 50m to the ref and press him to give cards etc. This was clearly barcas tactic to destroy madrids tactic.
I don't see how Ronaldo was classy. He was poor, tried to run at Puyol but hardly got past him. He's meant to be the best player in the world, but I think Di Maria was better than him in that game. His dribbling skills (maybe) and pace are overrated in my opinion, although he is a great header of the ball and a good finisher.
 

GodCubed

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I don't see how Ronaldo was classy. He was poor, tried to run at Puyol but hardly got past him. He's meant to be the best player in the world, but I think Di Maria was better than him in that game. His dribbling skills (maybe) and pace are overrated in my opinion, although he is a great header of the ball and a good finisher.
True. I think it was Joss that said that Di Maria is one of the best in the world, really rates him.
 
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