Yeah yeah yeah, the latest round of El Clasicos was a way long time ago, I know. Look, I’ve been busy. Also, here at The Vuvuzela Stylings of Toblerone Jones we actually strive to do things that are actually different, in actuality. Timeliness: it’s for suckers.
Anyway, the games: they were good! A lot of attacking going on, both teams threatening, a battle between equals. In fact, apart from the brief windows of Barca dominance in which they scored their goals, Real were the better team, dic[k]tating the games. Blah blah blah tactics blah blah blah pass ratios blah blah blah shots at goal shots on target saves made goals scored blah blah blah tackles blah blah blah tiki-taka blah blah blah “physicality” blah blah blah sumptuous goals blah blah blah burp, wank, fart.
Now, down to the real. The first game. It all started with a handshake:
MEGA AWK YALL! Best start imaginable. OH WAIT,
Holy “Sweet Tits” Mary Mother of God! I have to admit that when I first saw Real’s new 2011-12 season kits, I was aghast. That shit looked so tacky! But of course Crissy made it work, using it to pay the King homage. This is how you stunt in a Real shirt. You’re nothing, Davey Becks! NOTHING!
About twenty minutes in Khedira got so jealous of Ronaldo’s popped collar pimpociousness that he did CR7 one better and “pulled a Cantona”:
Abidal didn’t even have to leave the field for treatment, the magnificent bastard. <3 u Abi.
Then something happened that, for me, was a defining moment of the “tournament” or whatever they call it, possibly of this most ancient of sporting rivalries, at least in moral terms.
In the 22nd minute, new merengue signing Fabio Coentrão landed awkwardly on his ankle and fell down kinda hurt. He lay there in visible pain for a little while, hands on his forehead. Team medics were about to come onto the field to treat him with magic spray but Mourinho stopped them. JoMou made it clear that unless Coentrão was badly injured and needed to be taken off, he’d get no coddling. You’re not a little boy. Get up and get on with the game. It felt, then and now, like someone had finally put teeth into all the complaining everyone does over playacting.
For this along with many other things, Jose Mourinho is a fucking hero.
Another hero of the clasico was a more obvious and popular one: Lionel Messi. Throughout the first game the poor little guy looked like he had the flu. He was sluggish, coughing and wheezing throughout the 90 minutes. At one point it looked like he was throwing up on the field. But all that didn’t stop him from turning it on for a few seconds and making a beautiful goal out of basically nothing. Only happened once in the game, but boy what a pretty few seconds it was. Every time I looked at him, a name screamed out at me, the name of the greatest human athlete of all time: Michael Jordan.
Oh yeah, David Villa scored in the first game too. It was terrific, and similar to his goal in May’s Champions League final. I think he’s like, “back” now. I credit the fact that he finally added a goatee to his lonely, unfortunate soul patch.
The game didn’t end with the goals, though. Late on, with less than ten minutes left, something wonderful happened. I like to call this “Pepe’s Revenge”:
There is justice in the world after all.
The second game was also good and had some goals and stuff, Cesc came on and got an assist, winning his first trophy with Barcelona in his first game with Barcelona, I was happy for him. But obviously the story of the game was dominated by uglier (better/awesomer) moments.
Yeah, duh, I’m talking about the fight.
I love a good fight, especially at the end of a thrilling, passionately played game. When an encounter is dominated by bad tempers and little scuffles it can be a drag, but an explosive free-for-all at the death is a perfect way to finish. These people get paid millions of dollars to do this shit, so I expect them to be extremely emotionally invested in whether they win or lose. Sports are more than just kicking a ball around or whatever—they’re about the spectacular glory of human effort.
Barcelona won the trophy, but Real Madrid won the fight. A lot of otherwise smart, perceptive people made jokes at Mourinho’s expense for the eye poke. I remember seeing the word “gouge” thrown around on twitter and sports news websites, like he’d Gloucester’d him or something. I remember hearing the real-time commentators passing judgment. “Just appalling.” “Completely unprofessional.” “Setting a horrendous example for the players.” “Absolutely no reason for that sort of behavior.” Not many bothered to ask: what if there was a reason? What if Vilanova deserved it?
More than any of these things, though, the Supercopa was for me a story of two fouls. One in each game. One from each team. One called, the other not.
Late in the first game, this happened.
As blatant and cynical as they get. The ref let it slide.
And just in case you’re inclined to give the cule keeper any benefit of the doubt, well, look at his face when the press asked him about the incident after the match:
Valdes should have been sent off and Real Madrid given a penalty. In the second game Valdes made several superb saves, ones I doubt back-up keeper Pinto could have pulled off. This call had an incalculably huge effect on the outcome of the “tournament.” The “respect” campaign that FIFA/UEFA/whoever keeps shoving down our throats never felt so hollow.
In the death throes of the second game, Marcelo went in hard with both feet on Cesc Fabregas, setting off the brawl everyone talked about in solemn, scolding tones until the next soccer thing happened.
As I’m sure you saw/already knew, Marcelo was sent off. Like half a dozen other people went with him soon after. The foul was described, in Drogba-esque terms, as “a fucking disgrace.” Well.
Comparing this foul with the earlier one from Valdes, they couldn’t be more different.
Valdes’ elbow was a calculated ploy to deny an opponent a go at an empty net roughly halfway through a two-game contest, the score at that moment tied. Marcelo made a desperate lunge in the middle of the field in the final seconds of the contest’s final game, his opponents ahead by a goal. If these two were on trial for murder, the Spaniard had malice aforethought, while the Brazilian committed a crime of passion.
Let us now soak up some context.
Valdes tends goal for FC Barcelona, a club whose identity is defined by their unshakeable commitment to playing a beautiful, technical, and clean passing game. They have often and loudly condemned other teams for playing dirty, and for compromising their morality and their identity for the sake of winning. Their motto is “mes que un club” and they prefer it when people interpret that as broadly as is convenient for them. How could Valdes explain his behavior to the badge he kisses so proudly? Sticking his elbow out like that shits on everything his beloved club supposedly stands for.
Next we consider Marcelo. Stadium crowds in Europe are notorious for racially abusing non-white players. Samuel Eto’o, Emmanuel Adebayor, and others have publicly spoken about it recently. FIFA is pushing a “Say No to Racism” media campaign fairly hard. Yet racist abuse by fans continues unabated. Marcelo has been a frequent target of that abuse, particularly at the Camp Nou. We’re talking monkey chants. Try to play through 90 minutes of monkey chants and see how calm and clearheaded you feel in the final seconds of an intensely fought and tantalizingly close game. Fucking try it, I dare you.
As if racist crowds weren’t enough, Marcelo has a personal history with Barcelona. It’s impossible for us to reallytrulydefinitively know what Busquets’ words were in that infamous shout. The evidence leaves room for doubt. The thing is, Busquets is the white one here. He doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. He’s the white one. So when Marcelo says Busquets called him a monkey and Busquets fails to convince me otherwise, I believe Marcelo. “Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t apply to white people accused of racism. It just doesn’t. This is hard for many (most) white people to accept, but there it is. I know, I know—white guilt is such a drag.
When you add all that together, it’s much easier to forgive Marcelo for his crunching tackle than Valdes for his elbow. And for me, that was the story of the Supercopa in miniature—Madrid were overzealous, but Barca were hypocrites.
You can say a lot of bad things about Real Madrid. I definitely have before. But they’re not hypocrites.
So. Yeah. “Mes que un club.” Uh huh. Sure.
This was pretty long. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ