Manuel Queimadelos Alonso
A Canterano's goal aside, the game, played on a water-logged pitch, had no tactical highlights, no intricate passing, and no great display of skill. Our more delicate fantasista players struggled to even play with a ball that spun and stopped moving in standing water. Others improved markedly after the break when they realized that a passing game was out of the question and a direct, over-head approach was necessary. Luckily then, from the point of view of the press, there was plenty of drama post-match in the tunnel and dressing rooms to make up for the usual tactical examination of what happened on the pitch.
We know there was some sort of altercation between Real Madrid's Pepe and Levante's Ballesteros following a highly emotional match that saw Cristiano Ronaldo injured above the eye after an elbow to the face. Sergio Ramos spoke cryptically of Ballesteros as a boxer in the wrong profession.
What really happened then?
I begin with an excerpt from Sid Lowe of The Guardian.
Picking fact from fiction is always difficult, but there was pushing and shoving and shouting, people wading in. That was when the police turned up, shutting Madrid in their dressing room until they had been able to move Ballesteros out of there. Every Madrid player, locked in.
Well, almost every Madrid player.
Standing alone outside was a 20-year-old kid by the name of Alvaro Morata. When the police arrived, Morata was talking to Onda Cero radio. There was something appropriate about his solitude; something right in him standing apart from all the noise and all the arguments, from all the nastiness and the accusations. About him standing there and just enjoying the moment, away from the fighting. "I haven't had the chance to speak to my family yet because there's no reception in the dressing room," he said. "But I'm very happy."
Sid Lowe has summed up, in about 2 paragraphs, what the press are talking about this morning. The first is the questions surrounding the youth team and the happy occasion of a youth team player scoring his first goal for Madrid and winning the game for his team – a happy and positive and heart-warming feat that would normally take the headlines.
The rest is controversy, controversy, and more controversy. As Sid Lowe puts it elsewhere: someone is lying. And certainly no two press reports are entirely the same. The following is gleaned from Europa Press, Marca, As and Punto Pelota.
The Levante players’ version of what happened before the police had to be called in is that Ballesteros dropped by the Madrid locker-room (or treatment room, depending on who you believe) for a "friendly" visit while Cristiano Ronaldo was having his forehead sutured. Media reports claim he entered the room and set upon Pepe, throttling him and trying to punch him before being pulled off and thrown out of the room by Sergio Ramos.
Sergio Ramos in the mixed zone: "If Ballesteros wants to be a boxer, he’d better pick another sport."
Levante's Juanlu after being told of the allegations (the quotes are from As): "It makes me laugh that Madrid would talk about Ballesteros..."
Interestingly though, Juanlu did not deny the allegations against Ballesteros. Instead he first launched into an unrelated explanation of how there had plainly been a refereeing conspiracy to allow Real Madrid to win. How this theory squares with the awarding of an offside equalizing goal to Levante went unexplained by Juanlu, who noted: "It was obvious that Madrid could not be allowed to lose here..."
He then seemed to confirm the attack on Pepe by seeming to explain the motivation: Pepe had been celebrating Madrid's win.
He went into his dressing room and was doing it with the door open. Everyone saw it: security, the police, his team, ours... There's no question about it...The police and stadium security arrived. They separated us and put us in our dressing rooms.
This morning, Ballesteros himself unburdened to the press. Here is what Marca claims he said:
I've never assaulted anyone in my life, especially not Pepe. After 20 years in this profession, you can believe anything I say. I went in to see how Cristiano was and I would never dare to assault anyone...
These things happen because it involves Madrid. It isn't a coincidence. We had them on the ropes and the league could have ended here.
Aside from deflecting questions about what actually happened by complaining about the referees, he refused to comment on the fracas. He also would not confirm or deny that Ramos had been involved – though he did say he had congratulated him and Iker Casillas before the game for their national team exploits.
Real Madrid made the following statement this morning via its website in a post entitled "Official Announcement"
In the light of the incidents following the end of yesterday’s match between our team and Levante U. D., Real Madrid would like to state the following:
1) All of our players and coaching staff behaved in an exemplary fashion during the course of a match which took place in conditions which made playing football very difficult and which our team was able to overcome in a professional, dedicated and sporting manner.
2) At the end of the match the attitude and behaviour of the players, coaching staff and members of the expedition was at all times correct and beyond reproach.
3) We reject the accusations in some sections of the media regarding supposed provocations by our player Pepe towards the home team’s dressing room. Our player’s behaviour was at all times exemplary, like that of the rest of his team mates.
4) This club will continue to defend at all times the values of sporting behaviour and respect that should guide the world of sport.
Not to be outdone, Levante FC made their own statement. Some commentators consider the near -identical wording to Real Madrid's statement to be slightly mischievous, or ironic, on the part of the club -
1) Our players and coaching staff displayed exemplary behaviour throughout the match, which was played in very difficult conditions, and our team demonstrated professionalism, dedication and sportsmanship.
2) At the end of the match, the attitude and behaviour of our players, coaching staff and non-coaching staff was impeccable
3) We wish to highlight the performance of our players and coaching staff in the spectacular game which took place on Sunday. They showed competitiveness, fight and dedication. We also want to thank our fans for the unconditional support they showed for our team throughout the match, in spite of the rain
4) Levante U.D will continue with its philosophy of defending the values that has made our club, which has existed for 100 years, so well loved and respected within Spanish football.
They are certainly similar enough - to an almost comical degree.
None of Madrid’s players have made any statements beyond what was said last night. Almost all are on international duty as of this morning, of course, and well out of the press firing line. And even as the Levante players continue to explain an incident requiring police intervention the club hierarchies obviously aren’t talking.
The truth is lurking somewhere in between.