Massive Match-Fixing: Why El Clásico is Modern Fútbol’s Most Exaggerated Game

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I want to preface this post by saying that before starting to write, I Googled “worst jobs” with the expectation that “reffing a Clásico” might be #1 on everyone’s list. For real though – I find it incredibly difficult to think of a more stress-inducing or generally worse experience.

By now you’ve most likely heard that Jacinto Vicente – lawyer of an unnamed La Liga linesman – has lodged a formal legal complaint to the public prosecutor’s office in Barcelona. Why, you ask? Because said assistant referee was allegedly pressured by a member of the Real Federación Española de Fútbol’s (RFEF) referee committee to favor Real Madrid in next month’s Clásico duel.

At the moment, I can only really bring myself to let out a huge, disappointed sigh. UGH. The thing is, this goes way beyond whether or not the allegation ends up being true or false (what if there is no assistant ref? ?). It (once again) calls into question the honesty of what I believe to be the greatest and perhaps most corrupt league in the world. And it’s frustrating as hell.

La Liga president Javier Tebas dismissed the whole ordeal as “ridiculous,” stating that “it makes no sense, when the referee for this game has not been designated.” 1. Great, thanks for that one Prez… 2. Wait. Hold up. You mean to tell me that this linesman isn’t even scheduled to referee the match yet? He’s a part of one of the officiating crews that could maybe, possibly, eventually, someday be chosen to ref the Clásico?! WTF.

Tebas, being the quality guy we know he is, also shrugged off comments from Sports Minister Miguel Cardenal, who implored the RFEF to address the accusations: “These are serious accusations, something incredibly alarming. What must be done before this accusation is an immediate clarification and it is necessary to take quick measures. I would like the federation to address this immediately.”

Talk about banter before the game even starts…there are already enough reffing complaints to last a lifetime when it comes to El Clásico. Exhibit A: Take this desperate question to anonymous Yahoo answers homies post-Clásico in 2013:


Alright, then. Looks like it’s local pickup partiditos for us.

In all seriousness, it’s difficult to see the who/what/where/when/why of this match-fixing scandal with any sort of clarity. Is the RFEF to blame? Do Madrid officials have something to do with it? Is this a plot made in Catalunya? What bums me out the most is that as it stands, this falls into the same timeless mythical tropes used all too often in relation to this rivalry: Barcelona as the home of the revolution and place of suffering vs. Madrid, Franco’s centralist pet. Fuck. It’s just wrong on so many levels. It’s difficult to explain why this rivalry takes on such simplified, reduced, and antithetical political identifications, but it does; in Place, Identity, and Football: Catalonia, Catalanisme, and Football Club Barcelona, 1899-1975, Hunter Shobe states that seldom are “instances of bias interpreted so explicitly along political lines as they have been time and time again in the case of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.”

Jimmy Burns is the one who beautifully hit the nail on the head for me in Barça: A People’s Passion: “the history of Barça has its sharpest edges, its lowest and highest points on the grid of human conflict, whenever it and Real Madrid have played. It is a story reinvented again and again to the level of mythology, demigods fueled by exaggeration and by propaganda, played out by symbols, heroes and villains, demigods and devils.”

El Clásico is without a shadow of a doubt the most exaggerated game in modern fútbol. It’s most likely for this reason that, as a madridista, I almost find myself more excited for Madrid Derby weekend than during the months-long buildup to games vs. the azulgrana. The crazy thing is that a majority of fans take the Clásico as the defining match for La Liga play, it’s controversial headlines, tough fouls and fights, and general theatrics as emblematic of the league in its entirety. In reality, this is so far from the case. So very far.

José Ángel Jiménez Muñoz might be behind the call. The accusations might be completely false. My only hope is that the RFEF gets their shit together and that fans can appreciate the beauty of La Liga despite terrible league management, sometimes detrimental mythical narratives, and too much corruption.