The his­tory be­hind ‘El Cla­sico’ ri­valry

Real Madrid v Barcelona more than just a match

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

REAL Madrid and Barcelona, the world’s two rich­est clubs by in­come, meet for the open­ing La Liga ‘ Cla­sico’ of the 2011-12 cam­paign to­day, with Real three points clear of their arch-ri­vals at the top of the stand­ings and with a game in hand.

Barça coach Pep Guardi­ola has won seven of 11 meet­ings be­tween the clubs since he took the helm in 2008 but Jose Mour­inho’s Real have been edg­ing closer in each en­counter.

Barça beat Real 5-4 on ag­gre­gate in the two-legged Span­ish Su­per Cup in Au­gust, the cur­tain-raiser to the new sea­son, run­ning out 3-2 win­ners in the sec­ond leg at the Nou Camp, the last time the sides faced off.

Fol­low­ing is an ex­pla­na­tion of a se­lec­tion of Span­ish words and phrases which help ex­plain their in­tense ri­valry. BARCA’S 5-0 La Liga ham­mer­ing of Real at the Nou Camp last sea­son had home play­ers and fans wav­ing a hand in the air with the fin­gers spread in cel­e­bra­tion of the five goals – la manita, or “lit­tle hand”. That re­sult, and the 6-2 thrash­ing Barça handed out at the Bern­abeu in 2009, are two of the most hu­mil­i­at­ing re­verses suf­fered by Real in re­cent times.

In the mid 1990s Dutch coach Jo­han Cruyff led Barça to a crush­ing 5-0 league drub­bing of Madrid at the Nou Camp, when Brazil striker Ro­mario net­ted a hat-trick.

Cata­lan joy was rel­a­tively short­lived, how­ever, as Real beat them 5-0 at the Bern­abeu the fol­low­ing sea­son thanks to an Ivan Zamorano tre­ble.

To­mor­row’s re­sult will be im­por­tant in help­ing de­ter­mine the head-to-head score be­tween the teams should they fin­ish level on points at the end of the sea­son – a pos­i­tive one for Real se­cured them the 2007 league ti­tle un­der Fabio Capello. CON­SPIR­ACY the­o­ries have abounded over the years about bi­ased ref­er­ee­ing to­wards ei­ther team. Al­le­ga­tions of favouritism shown to­wards Real by ref­er­ees dur­ing the dic­ta­tor­ship of Fran­cisco Franco have given way re­cently to Barça be­ing ac­cused of hav­ing a help­ing hand.

The the­ory that Barça backed the re-elec­tion of An­gel Maria Vil­lar to the pres­i­dency of the Span­ish soc­cer fed­er­a­tion (RFEF), while Real sup­ported a ri­val can­di­date, has given rise to the term “Vil­larato” which is a term used ev­ery time Madrid fans think Barça have had some kind of favourable treat­ment.

Real boss Jose Mour­inho has played up this de­bate, cit­ing the red cards given against his own side and the pun­ish­ments handed out to him­self and his team. It landed him in hot water with UEFA for a rant against ref­er­ees and the au­thor­i­ties af­ter their Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nal first leg de­feat last sea­son. AT THE end of the Span­ish Su­per Cup in Au­gust, with Barça win­ning 3-2 at the Nou Camp, a studs-up chal­lenge by Real de­fender Marcelo on Barça’s Cesc Fabre­gas sparked a mass brawl on the touch­line.

In the mid­dle of the melee, Mour­inho snuck up be­hind Guardi­ola’s as­sis­tant coach Tito Vi­lanova and gouged a finger in his eye. Vi­lanova re­sponded by cuff­ing Mour­inho round the head.

The ref­eree did not see “el dedo de Mou” (the finger of Mour­inho), which was caught on tele­vi­sion.

Af­ter al­most two months of de­lib­er­a­tions, the RFEF handed Mour­inho a two-match ban to be served only in the event of the Por­tuguese ap­pear­ing in an­other Su­per Cup, the an­nual meet­ing be­tween the league win­ners and the King’s Cup hold­ers. Vi­lanova re­ceived a one-match ban.

Barça play­ers ac­cused Mour­inho of wreck­ing Span­ish foot­ball while Mour­inho later of­fered an apol­ogy only to Madrid fans.

Real pres­i­dent Florentino Perez backed Mour­inho, while Barça's former coach Cruyff called it “an act of ar­ro­gance and im­po­tence”. BARCELONA’S slo­gan “more than a club” helps ex­plain why the ‘Cla­sico’ is more than just a foot­ball match.

Barça is seen as a sym­bol of Cata­lan na­tion­al­ism and of the re­gion’s strug­gle for recog­ni­tion against the per­ceived cen­tral­is­ing force of the Span­ish govern­ment in Madrid, em­bod­ied by Real.

Barça fans wave the yel­low and red-striped Cata­lan flags and hold up ban­ners at the Nou Camp pro­claim­ing in English that “Cat­alo­nia is not Spain”.

Many whis­tled through the national an­them at the Mestalla be­fore last year’s King’s Cup fi­nal.

Madrid fans re­spond by wav­ing Spain flags and singing “Viva Es­pana” ( Long Live Spain) with Real de­fender Al­varo Ar­be­loa’s “Viva Es­pana!” mes­sage on his Twit­ter feed just af­ter their Cup fi­nal tri­umph was widely de­bated by fans af­ter­wards. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: GETTY IM­AGES

SWORN EN­E­MIES: Barcelona’s David Villa and Pepe of Real Madrid clash dur­ing the Su­per Cup sec­ond leg match at the Nou Camp back in Au­gust.

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