Of Barcelona’s 2-0 away defeat of Real Madrid in last week’s Champions League semi-final first leg, The Hindu’s Peter Roebuck opined, “the sight of two uncompromising teams chewing each other’s ears offers its own satisfaction.” Said chewing hasn’t been limited to events on the pitch however, and in the aftermath of Jose Mourniho accusing his opponents of receiving a helping hand from the referee, Real Madrid have been rather aggressive in courting public sentiment. With Real Madrid circulating footage of Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets racially abusing Marcelo, the Guardian’s Paul Heyward bemoans circumstances that feature “protagonists in the most unseemly Champions League tie in memory in a state of full mobilisation.”
The ferocity of the attacks is unprecedented. But they look orchestrated, too, by lawyers and communications directors, to lift each team off their hook. Digital age outlets (Twitter, in-house TV stations) have served the purposes of dissemination. This precedent will be studied and copied for future footballing disputes.
Real were especially meticulous in calling Barcelona’s play-actors to account. A video on their website is headed. “Television images show that Pepe did not touch Alves’s leg [for the sending off],” and proceeds to depict Barcelona players rolling around and clutching faces to deceive Wolfgang Stark, the German referee. Pedro is another of Guardiola’s players who Real evidently think should be at Rada. In response, some Barça supporters have claimed the Alves clip was doctored, with the frames showing contact removed.
“The sports world cries out” was the emotive headline on a piece of Real prose that claimed stars across the firmament were denouncing Barcelona’s dishonesty. No mention was made of the comparable disgust expressed in reaction to Mourinho’s insinuations about Uefa and referees. Naturally Real were loading pressure on De Bleeckere not to “fall for Barcelona’s theatre” (their words); and the allegations of racism against Busquets could be seen as the final, pre-match nuclear option to swing public opinion Madrid’s way.