Jose Mourinho's Rage and Barcelona's Influence on Ref's
The past Champions League semifinal encounter between arch-rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona was shrouded in controversy as Pepe was shown a straight red card for his tackle on Dani Alves in the second half of their first leg encounter.
The ejection caused great irritation and displeasure for Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, who vocalized his opinion both during a tirade on the pitch itself (getting himself ejected in the process) as well as derogatory comments he made at the post-match press conference that included pinpointing Barcelona's Unicef charity sponsorship as possibly influencing games in their favor.
The despondent Madrid coach went on to both congratulate and criticize Barca head coach, Pep Guardiola, saying that he should be ashamed of the way he won the Champions League trophy in 2009 (controversial win against Chelsea), as well as making it to this year's final by also beating Arsenal and Madrid in controversial fashion.
Jose's opinions were also reiterated by fellow Madrid members Ronaldo, Casillas and Ramos. Ronaldo, in a post-match interview claimed that when playing against Barcelona, it is always expected that they get the benefit of the referee decisions and that it was nothing new to him.
Often times in intense rivalry between teams, the losing team's players will always come up with irrational excuses accompanied by emotional outbursts and referee finger-pointing as the prime reasons why they were not victorious. This is nothing new and is human nature on the part of Jose and Real Madrid.
However, after reviewing several videos of bogus referee calls in favor of Barcelona, video evidence would suggest the Jose Mourinho has a valid argument and case. It is no longer a case of just plain sour grapes; instead, Barcelona's last few Champions League campaigns have been shrouded in a sea of controversial calls that helped them progress in the tournament over the last several years.
The video evidence that has been compiled for the purpose of this article would suggest that Barcelona have been somewhat fortunate to have received game-changing referee decisions in their favour in each of the past three Champions League campaigns from 2009-2011.
Add to this the fact that all four games were also in the knockout stages of the tournament, where a bad call from the ref could change the outcome of the game, and suddenly Mourinho's once absurd, out of line statements don't seem so irrational after all.
In fact, could there actually be any truth to the "Chosen One" Barcelona conspiracy theory? And are the referee's and officials assisting Barcelona's win in crucial Champions League games?
Let's look at four games where the video evidence suggest that Barcelona were on the beneficial side for several crucial referee decisions that ended up making a big impact in the Champions League ties they were involved in.
Barcelona vs. Chelsea 2009 Champions League Semifinal
There were at least four possible penalty claims that could have been given by referee Ovrebo during this match, as Chelsea and Drogba in particular felt that several calls unjustly went against them or were not called altogether. In fact, looking back at some of the video footage for this game could serve a purpose in the form of training referee's what not to do.
Ovrebo and his assistants missed several calls and fouls throughout this game, Drogba had a few penalty claims alone. It seemed as though the ref and his assistants wanted no part in having to make significant calls and as a result, affected Chelsea almost exclusively in a negative fashion.
Drogba and Ballack were further suspended multiple games after their misbehaviour; Drogba was recorded on camera shouting obscenities, making rude gestures and voicing his frustrations about the officiating for the game. Chelsea supporters and players definitely have the right to be irritated and upset with the officiating; video review suggests the referee missed several calls that should have been awarded in their favor. Nevertheless, Chelsea were ousted in the semifinals of the tournament, while Barcelona went on to beat Manchester United 2-0 in the final.
Inter Milan vs. Barcelona Champions League 2010 Semifinal
A very dubious red card given for the theatrics produced by Busquets. Again, Barcelona's ability to sell and embellish the foul produced dividends in the form of a straight red card to Thiago Motta in this 2010 second leg semifinal encounter. The red card was given in the first half of the game played in Milan, giving Barcelona close to 65 minutes with a numerical player advantage.
Barcelona went on to score in the 83rd minute through Gerard Pique, who was clearly in an offside position when he received the ball. The goal was given even though the play should have been whistled and stopped for offside.
Fortunately for Inter, they were able to hold on to their 3-2 aggregate advantage and went on to win the tournament with a 2-0 win against Bayern Munich. Inter coach Jose Mourinho ran on to the pitch soon after the second leg game against Barcalona and celebrated emphatically with the fans, rubbing salt in the wounds of the Barcelona players as goalie Victor Valdes grabbed at him in annoyance.
Arsenal vs. Barcelona 2011 Round of 16 Champions League
Arsenal won their home fixture 2-1, with goals from Arshavin and Van Persie. In the return leg in Barcelona, however, with the score at 1-1, a costly mistake by Van Persie all but sealed the game for Barca. After deservedly receiving a yellow card for his elbow on Dani Alves in the first half, Van Persie made a costly error in striking the ball long after the referee whistle had blown to signal offside. The call ended up changing the dynamics, as Barcelona, soon after, capitalized on their numeric advantage, with Xavi and Messi scoring a few minutes apart in the 69th and 71st minute.
It could be argued that Van Persie simply kicked the ball and did not hear the referee whistle; a valid excuse due to the noise level at the stadium. And even if it was done on purpose, another yellow card and a subsequent sending off is a very harsh call for such a small act of petulance. The referee could have been making amends for the prior elbow on Alves and thus had Van Persie on his radar.
Either way, the call was made, and it did prove to be a significant contributing factor to Barcelona's 3-1 win, thus allowing them to progress in the tournament on a 4-3 aggregate scoreline. Looking back, the second yellow card that was given shifted the game play in Barcelona's favour, when all that was really required was a verbal warning from the referee, directed at the pugilist Van Persie.
In a post match interview, Arsenal coach, Arsene Wenger, explained his frustration with the red card decision, saying the referee couldn't possibly have played soccer before in his life and that Van Persie did not deserve a second yellow for such an insignificant offense. He concluded by saying that Barcelona were an excellent side, but that his team deserved to play the full game 11 vs. 11, and that things could have definitely ended differently if that had been the case.
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona Champions League SemifInal 2011
A straight red card given to Pepe at home in Madrid for his his lunging attempt at dispossessing Dani Alves at the start of the second half. Until that debatable strong tackle was made, the was even and Madrid's defense was able to control the likes of Messi, Xavi and the rest of Barca's superstars.
Mourinho claimed that he had "the perfect strategy" in place and that Barcelona would not have scored if it had not been for Pepe's dismissal; and based on Mourinho's Champions League track record, who could doubt him.
Looking at the footage, it is easy to see why Mourinho and the rest of the Madrid players had reacted the way they did; Alves did all he could to embellish the harmless tackle and made it look a lot worse than it was. Pepe did appear to go in a little reckless and violent, but clearly there was very little, if any, contact between him and Alves.
Again, a Barcelona player was able to convince the referee that the offense looked far worse than was actually the case. The melee that soon followed the foul seemed to have persuaded the referee in issuing the card, as several Barcelona players threw their arms up and charged the ref, demanding action to be taken.
Alves was stretchered off after the tackle, only to return shortly after in seemingly unaffected by the supposed red card challenge; further rubbing salt in the Madrid camp's wounds.
Madrid fans were left wondering of what could have been if the red card wasn't issued as Barcelona went on to win the next game 2-1 at home and 4-1 on aggregate.
Recap: Is Barcelona a Team of Superb Actors First, Players Second?
Although I don't agree with the title of the video, labelling Barcelona "a team of cheaters," it's difficult to ignore the overwhelming evidence that their players embellish and play-act a lot of fouls in order to manipulate the referee's decisions.
The same can definitely be said for a handful of, if not all, teams; certain individuals are always doing this. But the fact of the matter is, Barcelona have been doing this and continues to do so deep into the Champions League tournament.
As a team, there is nobody better at playing the game of football the way it was supposed to be played, like Barcelona. Their movement, fluidity and intricate passing has been at the pinnacle of club soccer for the past several years.
Add to this a moment of absolute brilliance from the world's best player, Messi, or even Xavi and Iniesta, and it is crystal clear that this is, without a doubt, the best team in the world. However, the way they have progressed in some key matches over the years has tainted their once clean image, while unjustly punishing their opponents in the form of red cards or missed calls and penalties.
The best way to resolve this lingering issue, that is of inconsistent or missed referee calls, would be to implement video replay into the system, in order to avoid the common theme of injustice from happening again. Wrong calls and missed calls are a prevalent issue in the world of soccer and has unfortunately played a significant role in influencing matches and changing match scenarios.
For the good of the game, video replay should be used by the officials in order to restore fairness, diligence and promote fair play, by the sports organizing body's UEFA and FIFA.