Classic Clasico Should Not Be Undermined by Referee Controversy

Paul Wilkes@@paulwilkesfootyFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2014

Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, left disputes a red card shown to him by the referee for a foul on FC Barcelona's Neymar during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Sunday March 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Paul White/Associated Press

The biggest league match in world football will always see every decision scrutinised, but it shouldn't distract from the real issues surrounding the match.

Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco would be best advised to take a short break, preferably in a place with little television or internet coverage.

Whether he was correct to award the three penalties is open to debate—this will always be the case when there are so many interpretations of the rules and in a game that is played at such a high speed.

Numerous replays fail to give a definitive answer that we can all agree upon, and many will change their opinion continuously depending on the angle or view.

So, what chance does the referee have when he has a split second to make his choice and one look at an incident?

"We played against 12," Cristiano Ronaldo unfairly told reporters after the game, per Football Espana.

"It's always the same. They don't allow us. Maybe they wanted Barca back in the league," the forward added.

The fact that the most contentious ruling was given in his favour makes it hard to have any sympathy. The hypocrisy of football isn't just within the supporters and managers.

"I have never seen Real Madrid favoured by the referees," said Ronaldo, keeping a straight face. "After five years here, I understand how things work. [The media] has been here for many years more than me."

If he was playing for Getafe or Levante, then this may have rung true. All the biggest clubs will receive at least some favouritism from the match officials, albeit on a subconscious level.

Sergio Ramos perhaps had a little more reason to feel aggrieved, though his comments were just as ill-founded. Speaking in the mixed zone after the game, via Football Espana, the defender said:

Everyone can see what happened today.

We could have got something from the game but got nothing. There are some things you can't fight against. This was pre-meditated. I stopped because I preferred 3-3 rather than a penalty and a sending off.

To suggest that the officials made a mistake is one thing, but to say that it's some sort of conspiracy or that the competition is corrupt is going too far. The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) are rightly looking into both players' remarks after Spain's Referees' Committee reported them, via AS.

That's not to be naive; there may well be games in Spain that are subjected to match fixing for whatever reason. It's just extremely unlikely that the league match with the biggest television audience in the world would leave themselves open to the situation.

If the country's governing body wanted to make things difficult for Real Madrid, then why not do it in less conspicuous games? Real Madrid have won eight matches in La Liga by a one-goal margin, so wouldn't it be easier to give a dubious decision during a couple of them instead?

If it was pre-meditated, then the ref wouldn't have given Madrid a penalty in the first place. How would he have known that Ramos was going to put himself in that situation? It's frustration talking, and for some it's easier to blame others rather than look at themselves.

This was a fantastic match, with some outstanding individual performances. It was two sides that were both trading blows and attempting to win. Gerardo Martino and Carlo Ancelotti will both be aware that their teams made mistakes and that there are tactical deficiencies which will need sorting.

With all the criticism aimed at the referee, it's easy to forget that this was one of the greatest El Clasico meetings of all time.


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