The Official RefRefs Blog
Derbies are always contentious, and this weekend's crop were no exception. But while most of the media attention has focused on Chris Foy's controversial early red card to Vincent Kompany in Manchester's FA Cup face-off, there was plenty of drama in Barcelona, too.
So the referee for 2011's last Clásico is David Fernández Borbalán. That name might ring a bell. He's the same referee who was in charge of the ill-tempered Supercopa final this past August. While meetings between Barcelona and Real Madrid have been unusually violent of late, their last match was perhaps the most extreme, featuring spectacular football, racist chanting, and a brawl that spilled over the touchline and into the coaching staff.
So it would be tempting to heap the blame on Fernández Borbalán for not maintaining order. But, as almost everybody knows by now, these two clubs have come to represent much more than football in Spain. These are institutions, not mere clubs. Even as their country spirals down the economic drain, Barcelona and Real remain the richest clubs in Europe. They dominate politics, divide the media, and embody the bitter ethnic tensions that simmer just beneath Spain's sunny surface.
In recent years, the hype and drama have exploded to outsize proportions, dwarfing the football on the pitch. The fires of each Clásico are relentlessly stoked by ever more media speculation, finger-pointing, sanctions, lawsuits, riots, and even murder.
That’s a lot of responsibility for a mere referee to shoulder.
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We've been working on this new version of RefRefs intermittently for a few months now and had hoped to get it out to you before the heat of August faded.
Suffice it to say, that wasn't the case. We hit a couple of hang-ups (notably the birth of a little boy) and only got around to updating the website today.
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Real Salt Lake seem to be a magnet for controversy this season. Against San Jose, however, they finally seemed to get on the good side of Lady Fortune. At home in Sandy, Real found themselves dominating possession but having little impact against the Earthquakes. On the hour mark, with the match scoreless, RSL's Saborio went down in the box. As David Gantar approached the scene, the crowd and the players assumed he would hand Saborio a yellow for simulation.
So what do you think? Was it a good call by Gantar? Was it a blown call? Did Saborio dive? Review the ref's performance here.
It only took three minutes to become clear that this was going to be one of those games. Yader Reyes pointed to the spot and took center stage as the Independence Day face-off between the New England Revolution and Real Salt Lake turned ugly. Two penalties, two red cards, and four yellow cards later, about the only thing that anybody could agree on was that something had gone terribly wrong. Both coaches seemed — for once — to agree about something, with Kreis and Nicol apparently threatening to leave the field. Alexi Lalas even went so far as to declare the officiating the worst in MLS history.
So, did Reyes lose control of the game or should the players receive more of the blame? Where did things go wrong? Review the referee's performance here.
River Plate's relegation matches against Belgrano in Córdoba were always going to be contentious. River has 110 years of continuous residency in Argentina's top flight and 33 titles. The club is so powerfully omnipresent, the relegation system was even changed to prevent their drop in 1983, which has made their recent decline all the more exasperating for fans. Their four year fall from grace has been an ugly scene, characterized by frequent coaching changes, lackluster performances, corruption, and violence. The fuse was lit, and shortly after Belgrano scored their second unanswered goal at the start of the second half of the first playoff game, River's fans erupted.
It was a referee's (and player's) worst nightmare: inebriated, masked ultras tore a hole in the fence and surged onto the pitch in the middle of play. River's players — including starlet Erik Lamela — were berated, mocked, and shoved. Córdoba's police contingent, already strained with the task of managing overflowing crowds in the small, second division stadium, were late to arrive on the scene, allowing the ultras time to accost the coaching staff and referees before casually climbing back over the fence.
Throughout the chaos and violence, referee Néstor Pitana remained calm and composed, directing the police, fire, and security personnel and even conducting on-field interviews to prevent a full-blown riot.
After more than 20 minutes, play resumed and disaster — at least for the time being — was averted. The visiting River players, however, were too shook up to put up much of a fight. Another 40 minutes of cynical, scoreless play ensued and the match finished 2 – 0, Belgrano.
How do you think Pitana handled the match? What would you have done differently in his shoes?
LIVESTRONG Park inaugurated its opener with another MLS refereeing controversy. Continuing this year's rash of rough tackles and questionable calls was a bruiser from the Chicago Fire's Bratislav Ristic on Sporting Kansas City's Omar Bravo.
So, how did you think Michael Kennedy handled that call and the rest of the game?
Rate the referee here.
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