I’ve watched the latest instalment of “El Clasico” twice now, not because it was a particularly good game but rather I found the first viewing that underwhelming I thought I must have missed something in my early morning haze. Unfortunately for a game that pitted together two teams said to boast ten of the eleven best players in the world in the past year I found it largely uninspiring.
What did prick my interest however was the alarming amount of facial contact and gesticulating that could be seen happening off the ball. Every time a player went down he seemed to be greeted with a finger shaking with a teacher’s disapproval or a pinch on the cheek as if to say, “there there little child, get up before I really stomp on you next time.”
This got me thinking, when did this practise become such an accepted part of the game?
The act of diving has developed into a refined art in recent seasons and teams will always surround a referee to try to influence a decision. However, the meteoric rise in what I’m dubbing a UFO (Unwanted Facial Opportunity), where a player is forced to endure unnecessary facial attention after allegedly being fouled, is surely the latest plight in the game.
It seems every time a player is challenged in a game of this magnitude, whether it was foul play or not, there is an accompanying shaking second finger in the face deploring the fact a player goes down.
It is as if such an act is a moral slight on the attacker’s character and has got to the point where we should now track a player’s Index Performance as well as Performance Index, when deciding whether or not they’ve had a good game!
My other perennial hate at the moment is the constant face grabbing that goes on after a challenge has been penalised. Instead of just helping a player up with an outstretched hand it seems players feel the need to grab their adversaries face to assure them of the accidental nature of the foul that has been perpetrated.
UFO (Unwanted Facial Opportunity), where a player is forced to endure unnecessary facial attention after allegedly being fouled.
I find the motives behind this often questionable, as it seems to be a strategic way to inflame the situation. Maybe it’s a cultural thing I don’t understand but there was more cheek grabbing going on in this contest than Aunty Margaret embracing the kids on the cousins table at the family Christmas lunch.
When will players realise that no amount of finger pointing is going to change a referee’s decision and man-handling an opposition player is not going to endear you to them no matter how sincere?
While Ronaldo went down in the box quicker than a drunken tourist would get pick-pocketed walking down La Rambla, the act did not rob the game of the right result and all the UFO’s in the world were not going to change the referee’s mind. Though that did not stop the Catalans from trying.
At another point in the first half there were that many players down with opposition players getting in their face, it looked like a bad version of the Harlem Shake.
The modern day theatrics of European football players puts the embellishment of their Commedia dell’ Arte predecessors to shame. I have been to the Nou Camp and seen all its grandeur but parts of the performance in the Copa del Rey semi-final belong strictly to a different stage.
Fortunately we don’t have to wait long for another show as there will be another instalment of El Clasico this weekend- the sixth one of the season! It will no doubt again be filled with drama but hopefully some quality football too!