Real Madrid CF vs FC Barcelona: Fight Clubs

The Clasico is a fixture that many who love the beautiful game look forward to watching. The rivalry, the world class players, the fact that it is contested by two of the best teams in club football contribute to the spectacle of El Clasico. Recently, however, there seems to be a growing and unsettling trend that is marring the spectacle and detracting from the beautiful football on display.  In every other Clasico players from these two iconic footballing institutions regress into a pre-civilized state and try to fight each other.

The rivalry has grown so intense that any slightly contentious incident or bad tackle could cause a riot on the pitch! I doubt you’ll hear an argument from anyone approving of Marcelo’s tackle on Cesc Fabregas in the dying moments of injury time of last Wednesday’s Clasico. It was an absolutely outrageous scissor tackle that was well deserving of the sending off that Marcelo received. What followed should serve as an example- not of footballing excellence- but of the kind of thing that should not happen on a pitch. Fans like to point fingers and assign blame for incidents like these, but there’s plenty for everyone who contributed to the fracas.

Real Madrid vs Barcelona Supercopa Brawl in Spanish, August 17, 2011 Fabregas, Ozil, Villa Red Card (via CyberDeviant)

In an ideal world (one where dangerous tackles still exist for sake of argument) that tackle would happen, the referee would make the correct decision, Fabregas would be allowed to get up, and play would resume. On Wednesday evening it almost played out that way. However, in between the referee’s decision and Fabregas getting back on his feet something else occurred that threw everything into chaos. Everyone, players from both teams, the technical staff, even Jose Mourinho converged upon the area where the tackle was made. Some went over to the referee but the majority surrounded the fallen player, Cesc, which struck me as odd. The fact that Marcelo was not involved in the pushing, shouting and fighting, is even more concerning. No, I didn’t want to see the Barca players beat up Marcelo for his malicious tackle. I find it concerning though, that the aggression (from the Barca players) wasn’t directed at the player who could have just maimed their friend and teammate but seemingly at anyone in white. Whereas the Madrid players didn’t appear to be fighting in defense of Marcelo, but just to confront their blue and maroon counterparts.

How do you know when a rivalry has gotten out of hand?

When the players try to find any reason to fight each other? Or do you know it’s out of hand when the Manager of one club seeks out a member of the oppositions coaching staff to poke him in the eye?

It’s going beyond the territory of a good sporting rivalry. Obviously there are going to be flare-ups and flash points from time to time- especially in big games between rival teams- sometimes players get overly aggressive in the heat of the moment. The regularity of these incidents in recent Clasicos is troubling. People are right to worry about how they could affect the Spanish national team.

It’s getting too personal; the fact that Iker Casillas felt compelled to make phone calls to Barca players to make amends after the game attests to that. FC Barcelona’s Dani Alves felt compelled to inform the media that he is "not friends" with Real Madrid’s Pepe. Is it really that serious?

In the post-match press conference Pep said, "this could end badly if unchecked." Both Managers need to get a handle on their players. While Mourinho set a horrid example for his team by poking Tito Vilanova in the eye, Pep could also set a better example for his team.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo pushing Pep Guardiola (via MattReilly10)

While some may think it was funny that Pep threw the ball away instead of handing it to Cristiano, it showed immaturity and a lack of respect toward his opponent. Cristiano’s reaction was no better; pushing Pep only ignited another fight. It’s insane how such a small petulant action could incite everyone on the pitch to rage. Once again the lack of self control of everyone who got involved is very telling in regard to the state of the relationship between the two clubs.  

Two Premier League clubs were recently punished for not being able to control their players. The same charge should be leveled against Barca and Madrid for the part that their players played in the fighting. There’s healthy rivalry and there’s what the Clasico is quickly becoming.

If this problem continues to go unchecked, like Pep mentioned, the level of animosity could very well escalate to the point where not only the players on the pitch react violently to each other but the fans as well. Then we’d have a riot on our hands. 

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