The El Clasico Circus Returns
A lot of grown men still watch wrestling. I’m not one of those people, but who am I to cast aspersions on their character when the sporting event I most look forward to every year is El Clasico? Both are contests where the actual result is of secondary importance to the entertaining pantomime that surrounds them.
I may not watch “wrasslin’” anymore (because I’m not 12) but I remember why I liked it as a kid. It wasn’t because I appreciated Undertaker’s technique and poise as he “chokeslammed” Macho Man Randy Savage or whatever. It was because I wanted to see what was tearing the McMahon family apart this week. Or whose face Triple H would be waiting to introduce to a car door in the parking lot.
Similarly, the Clasico is all about the characters. Sure, Messi & Ronaldo are good players, I guess. I’ve heard good things about Xavi & Iniesta too. But it’s the villains of the piece that will elevate the occasion above just another football match, and there are plenty on show.
Of course, things have been ramped up even further with the entrance of one Jose Mourinho into proceedings. Arguably his most infamous contribution came at the end of the Spanish super cup, when with his team having lost to a late Messi goal, he took part in a melee by poking Barca assistant coach Tito Villanova in the eye. The Spanish federation was clearly outraged by his behaviour, as they banned him for one whole SUPERCUP match. That’ll teach him.
A melee (good word that) is a given in Clasicos these days. You know there’s no love lost between the two teams when reserve keepers are being sent off for slapping opponents, as Jose Manuel Pinto was last year. Keep an eye out for Marcelo if Madrid are losing in the dying minutes, as he likes to mark such occasions by hacking down his nearest opponent, as Thomas Muller found out on Tuesday night.
When Sergio Ramos was sent off in El Clasico in 2010, he equaled Fernando Hierro’s record for most red cards as a Real Madrid player, despite having played 264 fewer games. Speaking of Sergios, Busquets is always a popular player among opposition fans, given his propensity towards falling to the turf whenever an opponent enters the same postcode as him. The two have come together before with predictable results and are likely to do so again.
And then there’s Pepe.
When it comes to the dark arts, Pepe is the undisputed champion of the world. This is the man who once got a 10 game ban for repeatedly kicking Javier Casquero in the back. He’s perfected a tackling style that involves all his limbs flailing around in such a manner as to guarantee an elbow to the face and/or a kick to the testicles of whoever dares come near him. To complement this, he goes down like the proverbial sniper victim every time he loses the ball in a manner that would embarrass even Sergio Busquets. If you asked him though, he’s never legitimately fouled anyone in his life, and there’s a massive conspiracy against him, and it’s just not fair.
As far as the football is concerned, Clasicos are unpredictable. Barca and Madrid don’t get thrashed 5-0 too often, but when they do, it’s against each other. People who never, ever score, do score as Eric Abidal did earlier this season. But what you can bank on is shameless playacting, indecent assaults, lots of swearing, and sending offs. The goals are usually spectacular too.