Why are British fans so quick to condemn Spanish football? Guillem Balague starts the debate...
Last Updated: 27/01/12 4:45pm
As you can imagine, there's been an awful lot written in the Spanish and global press about the fallout from the double Clasicos of the past fortnight, covering everything from Jose Mourinho's future, team selections, tactics, politics and footballing strategy.
Fans in the UK have had a fair bit to say on the quarter-finals of the Spanish Copa del Rey as well and, thanks to Twitter, I've been kept well informed about what really gets them going about Spain's two biggest clubs.
It's not only Lionel Messi's brilliance, the technique of Xavi Hernandez, the composure of Xabi Alonso, the positioning of Cesc Fabregas or the merits of an attacking or defensive midfield line-up away from home at the Camp Nou that fuels the obsession.
What really gets people tweeting is the belief that cheating, foul play, violent conduct and anything outside the realms of 'fair play' was invented by the Spanish. And that now it is being fine tuned into an art form by Barcelona and Real Madrid who are "shamelessly polluting the global game with their antics" (as one of the more polite Tweets put it).
Pepe's stamp on Lionel Messi's fingers - an attempt by one player to injure a fellow pro - provoked as much revulsion and unreserved criticism, in Madrid and Barcelona, as you would ever have found following an incident in the Premier League.
In fact, I would go as far as saying that the universal condemnation of Pepe was far more widespread and unequivocal, even in Madrid, than similar incidents in, say, Manchester or Liverpool have ever provoked in the English media.
For once, there was no partisan defending of Pepe's actions. Not once did his nationality ever come into it. There was no suggestion that his being Portuguese ever had anything to do with it. Questions of national character were left to my friends on Twitter...
It wasn't just Pepe's nationality that prompted a Twitter frenzy. There was an avalanche of messages saying that all Spanish football is a disgrace; that La Liga is an abhorrence and that a great many are sickened by the challenges, theatrics and cheating to such an extent that they cannot bring themselves to watch any more.
Now here's where I'm going to need your help. I'd love to understand this obsession and constant desire to judge and label another country's entire culture and morality based upon the actions of individuals but only when those incidents take place in a foreign culture.
When similar incidents occur in the Premier League (Mario Balotelli?), the individual is to blame and it is perceived as a reflection of his own personal character, morals, temperament and flaws. When it happens in La Liga, an entire nation is judged.
The term cultural relativism is used to describe the fact that different societies have different moral codes and this concept challenges us to consider that there is no objective standard that can be used to judge one society's code better than another.
Now nobody - anywhere - is suggesting for one moment that stamping on another player's hand should be excused because of cultural difference. But the reactions to Pepe's behaviour at the Bernabeu are indicative of an increasing desire to launch into a vilification of another nation's footballing culture.
Why is that? Does it make people feel better about themselves? Honestly, I don't know and I want to know.
I do know that defining others - other nations, other individuals - is something we all engage in to help us formulate a more cohesive idea of what we are like as individuals and as a nation.
But shouldn't we at least try to come to terms with the fact that the moral codes of our own society have no special status. They are merely one among many - especially when so many of those moral codes simply don't make sense or are contradictory.
a) Could someone please tell me the difference between cheating and gamesmanship, other than the former being what foreigners do?
b) What is the difference between a player screaming for another player to be booked or a coach siding up to a fourth official asking why a player wasn't shown a red - and an Italian shrugging his shoulders and using his hands to gesture that a card could have been shown?
Apparently, getting in the ref's face and screaming obscenities and demanding action shows passion. Whereas waving an imaginary card is a most disgusting, heinous foreign practice that actually puts people off watching the game and should even result in a suspension should anyone think of tarnishing the British game with such theatrics.
I'm not judging, I'm asking.
I'm after a debate as to why we are so quick to judge others while overlooking such inconsistencies. I'd love some genuine insight into many practices and attitudes we think so natural, yet are really only cultural products.
Deep down, everyone without exception believes his own native customs and opinions to be the right way of doing things - me included.
But it's clear that those shouting and tweeting the loudest aren't really saying anything about the target of their abuse, but reflecting the prejudices of their own society.
I'd love your thoughts so that at least we can try to get some insight into the way others might think. Then we might find it easier to avoid arrogance, prejudice and attain an open mind.
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