Has it got something to do with Barça’s relative dominance of Spanish football for the best part of the last decade coinciding with the fading forces at Real Madrid?
Barcelona’s recent success counts five trophies in 2015. In the space of eight months from May to December of last year, the Blaugrana’s haul of all bar one available trophies has made them the envy of the footballing world. And it has seemingly brought more hurt to their eternal rivals, Real Madrid, who have been on a similar level of barren run overlapping Barça’s era of success. And there is every reason to believe Barça have had to pay a price for their prizes.
Barça’s Copa Del Rey first leg win over Athletic Bilbao was marred by poor refereeing by Jose Luiz Gonzalez Gonzalez. Gonzalez Gonzalez officiated the 0–0 draw at the Cornella between Espanyol and Barça, and allowed a series of violent plays from the home side, not least a violent, disgusting stamp from goalkeeper Pau Lopez on Leo Messi.
With all the headlines made, it was somewhat surprising Gonzalez Gonzalez made his way back into a Barça game for the game at San Mames on Wednesday night. The controversial referee continued with his bizarre officiating, booking Andres Iniesta for protesting while letting off Ander Iturraspe for catching the Barça captain with a flailing elbow.
In what seemed a decision difficult to understand, midfielder Sergio Busquets offered his own two cents on the incident, saying: “We don’t understand his criteria. He punishes equally, with a yellow, an elbow, the same as a player trying to talk to the referee like Iniesta, who was not protesting.”
In isolation, refereeing mistakes are commonplace in a fast-paced sport like football, but to add context to Gonzalez Gonzalez’s officiating in a Barça game and to add fuel to all the conspiracy theories being bandied around, it was the same Gonzalez Gonzalez who appeared to massively favour Real Madrid in their game against Real Sociedad as he called two penalties which were, in truth, two very soft decisions in favour of the home team.
That brings into question the amount of leverage and leeway Real Madrid receive from the officials while Barça are almost always handed a raw deal when it comes to refereeing and officiating.
Has it got something to do with Barça’s relative dominance of Spanish football for the best part of the last decade coinciding with the fading forces at Real Madrid? That is certainly a thought, but the way Barça have been treated against more physical teams has forced the club to take certain measures to protect their players.
The Barça board has asked the governing body, RFEF, to intervene and take a closer look at “sporting actions that have not been punished by the referee from objectionable causes”. And despite all that, and Gonzalez Gonzalez being appointed the referee for a Barça game again soon after what happened in the Catalan derby, manager Luis Enrique spoke out on the day before the Athletic game with his captains following suit after the game.
Whether those public outbursts from virtually everyone at Barça provoke a reaction from the RFEF and the Technical Committee of Referees remains to be seen, but the general sense at the club is that of an agenda to derail what has been a period of global dominance from Barça. With the team as well as the players taking world football by storm in the past 12 months, Barça boast of the most prized assets in world football, and even the world’s best manager in Luis Enrique.
Such sweeping dominance is barely seen, and the fact Barça are at a pedestal Real Madrid themselves so desperately want to be at, it is hard not to factor in the capital club’s influence as a major player on and off the pitch.
Javier Mascherano’s tax evasion verdict and the subsequent prison sentence caused an uproar until fears of the Argentine going behind bars were eased, but there are smells of an anti-Barça “black hand” at play.
There aren’t evidences supporting the conspiracy claims, but from the outside it feels as though Barça have been subjected to chaos from things out of their control. With Messi and Neymar also set to appear in court in the near future, there is a political air about Barça and their players’ predicaments.
The timing of various events seems to match well, and dots can be connected, and it increasingly looks like Barça’s recent sporting success has a lot to do with what has happened in the recent past with the club and their players.