It's Time To Forgive Pepe

Avishek BanskotaContributor IApril 23, 2009

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 05:  Pepe of Real Madrid reacts as he trudges off the pitch after receiving a red card during the UEFA Champions League first knockout round second leg match between Real Madrid and AS Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on March 5, 2008 in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid lost their match 2-1.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

The score was tied at 1-1. Juan Albin then scored a fantastic goal following a Getafe counter attack.

Madrid undeservingly went 1-2 down at the Bernabeu, especially after their second half performance. Madrid’s title hopes were all over, as the gap now between Barcelona and Madrid was nine points.

Yet, Madrid was pressing and attacking, looking for at least an equalizer. Francisco Casquero then outpaced Pepe following another Getafe counter attack.

Pepe, unable to tackle, pushed Casquero to the ground; the referee blew the whistle, a penalty for Getafe. Pepe then lashed out at the fallen Casquero. A kick around Casquero’s waist looked like a mistake while trying to clear the ball, but then a deliberate kick on Casquero’s back, earned him a red card.

After seeing the replays, one could notice that even the first kick on Casquero was deliberate. As if he did not have enough, Pepe went on to attack the hurt Casquero, only for Marcelo to pull him back. It was not until captain Iker Casillas had to pull Pepe aside and push him off the field.

Casillas saved the penalty. Although Casquero’s attempt at a cheeky chip was absolutely horrible, credit goes to Casillas for not diving the wrong way.

In the following attack, Guti scored a free kick. Madrid’s title hopes looked a little better, but as good as over after a draw.

Then, in the final minute of injury time, Gonzalo Higuain dribbled past a defender and scored a fantastic goal with his left foot. The Bernabeu was as loud as loud can be, and the title race was back.

What took the spotlight away from Madrid’s epic comeback victory was Pepe’s behavior. What Pepe did was shameful and disgraceful.

Casillas even went on to say that Pepe has disgraced Madrid’s white shirt and true, he did. Gago has also stated that Pepe’s reaction was uncalled for. But the biggest critic of Pepe following his reaction was the man himself.

While many footballers would choose not to face the press after such a reaction, Pepe did the contrary. He faced the press, and after not getting a chance to meet Casquero after the game, asked for his forgiveness in front of the press. His apology sounded sincere and the look on his face showed that he meant what he said.

As if this was not enough, Pepe spoke the following day and asked for forgiveness from Casquero, his family, Getafe, Real Madrid, his teammates, and his own family. He mentioned that he could not recognize himself after seeing the replays.

His explanation was that he felt solely responsible after conceding the penalty, losing the game and the title. Of course he did not know that Casillas would save the penalty, and Madrid would win the match.

So much so, he went on to mention that he may not return to the game. On being asked if he was going to quit the game, Pepe replied by saying that he had no desire to return, as he could not recognize himself, he was thoroughly ashamed, and he has no excuses for his actions.

As football fans, we should forgive Pepe. Of course he did something very bad, but the important thing is he has realized it, and sincerely apologized. How many times have we seen this from other players before?

Let me not get into details. Let us just look at the best players of the last decade or so. Players more adored, respected and popular than Pepe.

One of the best players in the world, Zinedine Zidane, on his last professional game ever, did something similar when he head-butted Marco Materazzi in the World Cup finals. France went on to lose the match and the trophy in penalties.

Yet have we not forgiven Zidane? The next day, when he returned to France with the team, thousands of people gathered to welcome him and consoled themselves with the fact that had Zidane not been sent off, they would win the match, while others would argue that the reason France lost the match was Zidane.

How often have we seen Roy Keane doing similar things? Time and again he lashed out at opponents if he lost the ball, got beaten or was frustrated at having a bad day at the office.

Manchester United went on to lose many matches when playing with one man down after Keane’s red cards. When Keane returned to Manchester United as manager of Sunderland, he got a hero’s welcome. Sixty thousand plus fans chanting, “There is only one Keano,” in honor of their ex-captain.

Then there is Eric Cantona. Cantona did not even attack an opponent or a fellow professional, but a fan.

No matter what the Crystal Palace fan said that day, there was no excuse for Cantona to lash out like that. Not only was it a minor slap or punch, but it was a studs-up, kung-fu style flying kick. Yet Cantona was forgiven.

Surely, all these players got their punishments, and Pepe should be punished too. He has stated that he is ready to face any punishment or fine thrown at him, and that the biggest punishment he is facing is what he is going through at present.

Yes, Pepe should get punished, harshly punished. The football world should forgive him, especially we football fans.