Barcelona are currently celebrating the club’s 27th Copa del Rey, achieved after imposing their overwhelming superiority over Athletic Bilbao (3-1) at the Camp Nou on Saturday. The Blaugranas' commanding victories in both the domestic cup and league mean that, if they manage to overcome Juventus in next week’s Champions League final, Luis Enrique’s men would secure their place in history by adding the club’s second treble in over 115 years of history.
Despite Barca’s outstanding performances of late, the Madrid-based media have conveniently focused on a couple of stories that, although they are obviously related to the Copa final itself, should have never eclipsed Barca’s superb performance on the pitch.
As expected, the Spanish anthem was frantically jeered by both Barcelona and Athletic supporters before the game even started. Although such behaviour was also evident back in the 2009 and 2012 cup finals, their disapproving roar reached an incredible 119 decibels this time round.
Unsurprisingly, the authorities based in Madrid have not wasted a second to release a statement showing their absolute discontent and pointing the finger not only at the fans themselves, but also at the clubs they support. In their eyes, their incessant booing “attacked symbols that represent Spain and the democratic harmony shared” within the country. They went on to condemn how they “took advantage of a sporting event to display a political protest” which “all Spaniards have a right to enjoy without others wishing to interrupt it or ruin it”.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but last time I checked citizens within a democracy should be allowed to show their agreement or discontent with whatever policies they please as long as they do so in a non-violent manner that doesn’t puts others at risk -- as specified in the Human Rights declaration under the Freedom of Expression section.
While it is clear that not everyone who watched the final either in-situ at the stadium or thousands of miles away from the Camp Nou is likely to agree, the point is that it really doesn’t matter whether they do or not. Since democracy was introduced in Ancient Greece over 2000 years ago, citizens all over the world have showed their feelings in different ways and, whether the Spanish authorities like it or not, that is not likely to change any time soon.
The Madrid-based press have also used Neymar’s attempt to flick the ball over Unai Bustinza in the dying minutes of the final as a way to shift their readers’ attention from the undeniable fact that Barcelona are tantalisingly close to win the treble once again.
While it is true that the Brazilian forward did not necessarily need to showboat his Basque rivals when winning 3-1 with only five minutes until the final whistle, the way in which his rivals reacted was utterly disproportionate and totally uncalled for.
Regrettably, Spanish football has reached a point where the most promising youngster in world football attempting a trick is considered far more unacceptable than the eight violent fouls he had suffered in the previous 85 minutes. Sure, he could have just tried to hold possession until his rival came close enough to tackle him or passed the ball backwards but why should he, especially after being the target of constant tackles from the moment the ball started rolling?
Barcelona supporters have been lucky enough to witness gifted Brazilian forwards such as Ronaldinho, Rivaldo or Romario attempting similar tricks at the peak of their careers. Neymar, who is following on their footsteps, is certainly bound to behave similarly to his compatriots and show off his skills whenever possible. Jogo Bonito, right?
As Luis Enrique explained after the match, the context in Spain is far less permissive with such actions than it is in Brazil. Rather than defending his player, he went on to explain that his reaction would have perhaps been worse and he will help Neymar change his habits in the future.
Even if we ignored the fact that the Barcelona coached failed to defend his 37-goals-a-season striker, we need to ask ourselves: Is forcing quality players to ignore their instincts necessarily a good thing? Fans who worked terribly hard to pay hundreds of euros for their tickets and travelled thousands of miles for the occasion should not be neglected of their player’s brilliance simply because their rivals could potentially get upset about it.
Those who were outraged by Neymar’s attempt to dribble a rival should take a hard look at themselves and wonder why the aggressive tackles he receives week in, week out have become more socially accepted. While they are at it, they should also spare a thought for time wasting, tactical fouling and generalised lack of sportsmanship towards those players who regularly play the spectacular, audacious football supporters pay big money to see.
Anyway, time for the Barcelona community to move on towards bigger and better things while the rest continue to spend their time trying to differentiate right from wrong.
Next stop, Berlin. Juventus. The Champions League final. A potential treble.
The Quote: “This is football. It’s just a dribbling attempt, like any other. I don’t know why Athletic players got angry, it’s part of the game. I’ve played the same way since I started. I am not going to change, that’s the way I play the game” -- Neymar.