The Duellists: Pep, Jose and the Birth of Football’s Greatest Rivalry by Paolo Condo

The Duellists: Pep, Jose and the Birth of Football’s Greatest Rivalry by Paolo Condo

Author:Paolo Condo [Condo, Paolo]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Amazon: B075JLXN3H
Publisher: deCoubertin Books
Published: 2017-09-09T23:00:00+00:00


THE FIRST SIGN A STORM WAS BREWING CAME on Monday, when Sergio Ramos said in an interview that he was amazed by Guardiola’s recent comments. ‘Incredible, now they’re criticising referees who get decisions right. I’ve had enough of this.’ Barcelona took this signal very seriously, and an order to remain calm was immediately issued at Sant Joan Despí. In the meantime, the Madrid radio stations – who will play a vital role in increasing the tensions in this story – banged on about it incessantly, and there was no taxi in either city that wasn’t tuned into a station talking about football. Complaining about each other took precedence over sensible and, above all, impartial analysis. In both cities. A little tongue in cheek, I called them the Radio Thousand Hills, named after the Rwandan radio station that propagated the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutus. Fortunately, this situation wasn’t bloody, but using the media to incite violence is a tried and tested practice in war-torn countries. And ultimately we’re talking about a war, obviously a cold war, because Catalonia’s desire for independence is well known and other regions, such as the Basque country, are closely watching how the situation develops. The adjective Real (royal) deeply hurts every Barça supporter no matter who it relates to: there isn’t just Real Madrid, but Real Sociedad, Real Betis, Real Zaragoza. The monarchy is an ever-present symbol of Spanish unity, and is therefore hated by every separatist.

In the dressing room, Mourinho was sending out mixed messages. First he reminded the team that they should go in hard on Barcelona, because the time they had committed the fewest number of fouls (16) was also the time they were humiliated 5-0 in the first La Liga meeting, whereas the 27 fouls in the Mestalla (including extra time) had led them to lift the Copa del Rey. That said, he also told his players not to overdo it and to be careful, because in Europe people had a lot of respect for Barcelona and referees would adapt accordingly, unlike Undiano Mallenco the week before, who had let some things slide. At the same time, the Madrid media harshly criticised the assigned referee, the German Wolfgang Stark, whose appointment not only brought back memories of a penalty he had recently denied Real in the Round of 16 at Lyon (for a handball by Yoann Gourcuff), but most of all an incident that occurred at the World Cup the year before. It so happened that Stark, before Argentina-Nigeria, had said that he was a fan of Leo Messi (‘watching him play is a real pleasure’ were his exact words) and, at the end of the game, he had asked for his shirt as a memento. All hell broke loose! The most moderate interpretation of this was that the Champions League tie between Real and Barça would be refereed by a Messi ultra. Once again, the Spanish media’s fixation of searching through referees’ personal histories before a big match had paid off.


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