Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The whimpers of the impotent

Bernd Schuster learnt (or learned, take your pick) something this week: not all football managers are created alike. If on Wednesday, Schuster's double pivot took apart Óscar Fernández's Valencia, on Saturday the same starting eleven were comprehensively beaten by Sevilla. So, does Schuster have any idea who is responsible for such a turnaround in fortunes?

However, it's not the game itself I want to write about, other than to say that Real were not that wonderful against Valencia, and, by the same measure, they were not that wretched against Sevilla. The team is starting to click together better than at the beginning of the season. How far they have yet to go is anybody's guess.

It was Schuster's off the cuff statement, in the post-match press conference, that has raised hackles across Spain and left him once again in the media spotlight. He's been railing against the media for some weeks now, perhaps in a Mourinho-style attempt to take the attention away from the players and onto himself and thus relieve them of the usual pressures. But blaming the referee's allegedly poor performance on his place of birth really takes the biscuit: "Is he Catalan? Well, there's nothing more to say". As Sid Lowe, and many others have pointed out, this is the same referee that gave Real more than a little helping hand in their defeat of Almería back in September, which goes to show that Alfonso Álvarez Izquierdo is probably just not a very good referee, but then, that's par for the course in Spain. Guti added more fuel to the fire by claiming that it had not been a defeat, but simple robbery. Given that he narrowly escaped a red card for elbowing an opponent, he has little to complain about, other than the fact it was probably frustration at being expertly hacked about all night by Sevilla's defence.

But now, the media circus has turned into a farce. Against all the video evidence, Schuster tried the next day to deny he had said anything about blaming the referee for the defeat and that it was all blatant misinterpretation by the press. Then, the president of the association of catalan referees (do they really need one?), César Ochoa, wanted the Anti-Violence commission to investigate the matter as it could be seen as incitement to violence. And now, a catalan political party, Convergència i Unió are surprised, saddened and angry at Schuster and want him fined by the Spanish Federation. To be fair, the politician in question also said it was probably something that had nothing to do with the referee being Catalan and more to do with Schuster being a bad loser. He also expressed disappointment that the Real Madrid president had not shown some class by making the club's position on the matter clear, a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.

So what did Mr. Álvarez Izquierdo think of the matter? "It was a heat of the moment thing. It has no relevance for me". Maybe he's not such a bad egg after all.


Linda said...

Alfonso Álvarez Izquierdo is probably just not a very good referee, but then, that's par for the course in Spain
Wholeheartedly agreed.

This is getting a bit out of hand, frankly. Yeah, Schuster probably shouldn't have said it, but I think the press he's gotten on the issue in the last week is punishment enough for it. Fans of every single team will just go on thinking that the refs have it in for their team anyway.

That said, it is interesting to see the way Schuster is handling the press, given that Real have done pretty well so far this season.

Gonzalo said...

Incitement to violence feels like several steps too far. If you look at the words he actually used in that press conference, anyone will be hard pressed to prove he blamed the referee for anything. He merely insinuated it, but that's not the same thing.

I'd like to think this was all part of a devious strategy to divert attention from the result, but he was a hothead as a player, and he remains pretty much the same, it seems.