El Clasicos are arguably the greatest and most intensely fought out battles in world football every year with eternal rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid fighting it out minute by minute in an attempt to get that glorious victory.
With the El Clasico in April 2016, airing in more than 90 countries and enjoying a viewer base of more than 400 million, there is no doubt that this battle fights it out toe-to-toe with the NFL’s Super Bowl 50 which is itself one of the biggest events in the sporting industry.
The players are under a lot of pressure from the fans and the board. Managers have been known to get the pink slip based primarily on a poor performance in the El Clasico, with Rafa Benitez recently sacked as a result of extreme fan discontent after the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Luis Enrique led Barcelona.
All this pressure and encumbrance generates a lot of negativity.
With the 232nd El Clasico coming soon, let’s take a look at the five most controversial moments ever in the contest:
#1 June 13, 1943 - The Black Day (Real Madrid 11-1 Barcelona)
Barcelona and Real Madrid shared cordial terms till this ill-fated day when the former were beaten 11-1 in the second leg of their Copa del Generalissimo semi-final at the Estadio Chamartin. The first leg result which was a 3-0 win in favour of the Blaugrana was a tough pill to swallow for the anti- Catalan media.
The second leg atmosphere at Madrid shocked the Catalan players who were left unnerved after the intense hostility demonstrated by the Los Blancos fans. The visit by General Franco’s security chief who stated “Do not forget that some of you are only playing because of the generosity of the regime that has forgiven you for your lack of patriotism” was the last straw on the camel’s back.
In the words of Barca's Fernando Argila -"There was no rivalry. Not, at least, until that game."
#2 1970 Copa del Generalisimo quarter-final Penalty Controversy (Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona)
With Barcelona looking to make a comeback in the 2nd leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final the contest could have finished in either side’s favour. Barcelona were leading 1-0 with Carles Rexach’s goal getting the Blaugrana fans excited and hopeful that their hopes of lifting the trophy that season were still alive.
Inexperienced and rookie referee Guruceta took the controversial decision of gifting a spot-kick to the Los Blancos. With Real Madrid’s Manuel Velasquez fouled well outside the box, the Barcelona players were furious at this decision. A couple of them decided to walk off the field in protest against this horrible decision.
Though manager Vic Buckingham was successful in convincing them to walk back, the players were clearly tumultuous. Amancio managed to deceive the goalkeeper which resulted in a pitch invasion.
#3 Rivaldo’s disallowed goal (March 2001), Final Result (Real Madrid 2-2 Barcelona)
Rivaldo was in sensational form on that night at the Bernabeu, with his deadly finishing and composure earning him two goals. Time was running out with both the clubs looking to get that goal which could get them the 3 points that could make the difference in the title race.
The game looked all set to end with the clubs sharing the points between them. Seconds were left in the match when Rivaldo sensed an opportunity to score the decisive goal. He unleashed a brilliant shot outside the box which deflected into the bottom right corner of the opposition’s net. Rivaldo had ended this game in the perfect way scoring a hat-trick and ensuring victory over arch rivals Real Madrid OR SO IT SEEMED...... .
To the surprise of the fans and Barcelona players who were overjoyed, the goal was ruled out offside by the referee The linesman’s decision to raise the flag prompted this disastrous verdict with Pep Guardiola incensed at this injustice to his club.
Rivaldo displayed monk-like resilience at that moment though his comments on his website indicated how annoyed he was about this decision.:"We played a great game but they stole victory from us. I'll never be able to forget what happened because we deserved to win. The problem is that referees want Real Madrid to win the league."
Barcelona president Joan Gaspar's disappointment was apparent from his comments after the game-
"I feel like I've had my wallet stolen.
"I think someone has decided that Barcelona shouldn't win the league this year."
#4 Victor Valdes’ rare moment of fury (March 2013 Madrid 2-1 Barcelona)
Barcelona were desperately pushing men forward into the opposition’s box in search of a header or a mishit shot which could rebound off a defender into the back of the net. Opportunities had dried up for them with Pepe and other defenders preferring to defend deep and block the attempts out.
As the seconds slowly started drying up, Ramos could not handle the pressure of the moment. He foolishly fouled Barcelona defender Adriano in the box which presented a brilliant opportunity as Barcelona now had the chance to equalise from the spot. Referee Miguel- Angel-Perez- Lasa though responded differently than expected by deciding to not award the spot-kick calling it a fair tackle and waving off protests by Barcelona players.
At this moment Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes could not control his fury and mouthed off expletives at the referee which earned him a red card. The Barcelona players clearly felt cheated as they walked off the pitch at the end of injury time.
#5 Jose Mourinho’s eye-gouge (2011-12 Super Copa de Espana)
Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Real Madrid is considered one of the darkest phases of their history though there were a few happy moments at the same time also. Madrid won the La Liga title under him in the year 2011-12 after a gap of 4 years.
Mourinho shared a strained relationship with several players primarily Cristiano Ronaldo with the winger openly slamming his tactics and methodology. Jorge Mendes’s impact on the squad considering his close friendship with Jose Mourinho drew remarks that Jose was favouring footballers managed by Mendes. The Super-Copa clash between the rivals turned ugly when Jose made a move to the Barca Camp and decided to gouge assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye.
This incident infuriated the Barcelona players resulting in a fight on the touch-line and exchange of angry words. Though Jose Mourinho declared himself as the victim at the end of the game calling it a retaliation after being provoked, this incident will go down as one of the embarrassing and shameful moments in Spanish football.