The bad blood between Real Madrid and Barcelona is threatening to bubble over once again before their Super Cup meeting, all because of an incident in last season’s edition of the fixture.
Newly re-elected Spanish football federation (RFEF) president Angel Maria Villar has rescinded the suspensions handed out in the game as part of a traditional amnesty following re-election – he stood unopposed to seal a seventh four-year term.
This has not gone down well at Camp Nou, where Barcelona officials believe an injustice has occurred by allowing Real Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho, to get out of his punishment for a serious offence.
In the closing stages of the second leg in the match, a dangerous tackle on Cesc Fabregas by Real defender Marcelo sparked a melee involving players and coaching staff from both sides.
The headlines after the game were centred on Mourinho’s eye gouging of then Barca assistant Tito Villanova, something he was subsequently handed a two-match ban for.
Vilanova, recently appointed Barca head coach, retaliated by pushing the Portuguese coach away, which landed him with a one-game suspension – both of the bans were confined to Super Cup matches.
The Catalan club already believed Mourinho had been treated too leniently, as well as Vilanova too harshly, and Villar’s move has done little more than reignite the indignation they felt at the time.
Although a traditional act, the wisdom of Villar’s amnesty should be questioned, especially when the fixture will be repeated early in the new season.
Barcelona’s feelings on the matter are clear and a spokesperson for the club, Tony Freixa, told fcbarcelona.com that president Sandro Rosell was particularly unhappy about the ruling.
“As we understand it, an aggression towards a coach deserves punishment," said Freixa.
“This decision [to rescind the ban] does not mean the aggressor is innocent, but leads them to believe that they can continue to attack people without fear of punishment.
“It's a bad example for Spanish football that this aggression is going unpunished.”
El Clasico has not needed much encouragement to get out of hand physically in recent years and this latest decision could easily serve as an aggravating factor to any disputes that occur.
Having the bans restricted to only the Super Cup was an early example of RFEF's poor decision-making, but to now rescind them makes a mockery of the disciplinary process that penalised Mourinho for an aggressive and unprovoked attack.
Tension between the Madrid coach and Vilanova will add to what is already likely to be a simmering affair, with Barcelona desperate to make an early statement in a season where they will attempt to reclaim their La Liga crown in the first meeting between the sides.
It is not only Mourinho who has benefitted from the amnesty; David Villa of Barcelona was red carded for slapping Mesut Ozil, who was also sent off, and Marcelo, who started the fracas, will all be available for the fist leg on August 21.
This rivalry was one that football fans could not wait to see, but in recent times it has left a bitter taste in the mouth due to the indiscipline on display.
It also doesn’t help that the domestic game in Spain has virtually become solely about El Clasico, with other fixtures unable to draw anything like the same amount of attention.
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