April 17, 2012 by Mike Platania
Often times, it’s easy to tell who’s fighting for good and who’s fighting for evil. It doesn’t take a genius to realize Obi-Wan is a force for good, and that Vader is evil. Show me someone who thinks that Voldemort is the protagonist and Harry is the antagonist and I’ll show you a liar.
But this isn’t the case in sports. Every team has fans; how could one be viewed as evil if they have good-willed supporters? Instead of the good versus evil story, we love to obsess over the tales of the underdog versus the favorite.
Despite the odds, there is the curious case of the rivalry between Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. This rivalry has been around for over a century and is possibly the most historic rivalry in all of sports, but there’s this complex that Real Madrid are the evil conquerors trying to dethrone the Catalans.
Barcelona’s nature is cool, calm and collected, and it starts with the demeanor of their manager Pep Guardiola. He always says all the right things, and seldom takes a verbal jab at their opposition. Barcelona plays a peaceful style of football, and passes better than anyone on the planet. Holding over 70 percent of possession in a game isn’t unusual for them.
But threatening Barcelona is the crushing, money-laden force that is Real Madrid. Led by evil genius Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid plays a style that yields fast counter-attacks and risky passes through defenders and they certainly aren’t afraid to commit a hard foul if the situation permits. Mourinho has been known to criticize refs, other players, and even governing bodies like UEFA and RFEF. Do I even need to mention the eye-gouging incident with Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova?
Mourinho is a self-proclaimed “Special One”, and Pep never gives himself credit, and instead funnels it to the players. The teams’ leaders fit this complex, and the players are no different.
Barcelona is truly Spain’s team. Thirteen of Barcelona’s 21 First Team players are Spanish. Conversely, fifteen of Madrid’s 23 are from elsewhere. No team in the world puts more effort and money into their youth system than Barca. Madrid loves throwing lucrative contracts at the world’s best players.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the two best players on the planet, and each will go down in history as one the greatest ever, but their reputations are entirely different.
Messi looks more like he’s on his way to class than a game most of the time, while Ronaldo looks more like a GQ model than a footballer. Messi’s game relies on quick, elegant dribbling and precise shooting. Ronaldo loves flashy tricks, and uses his physical dominance to bury shots from long range.
On the opposite end of the field, the teams are even more different. Barcelona’s Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique are quiet, efficient defenders who seldom risk a foul to make a tackle. Madrid’s Pepe and Sergio Ramos are physically dominating and are certainly no strangers to the red card. This season Real Madrid has committed 99 more fouls than Barcelona by a mark of 427 to 328.
But all this shouldn’t matter. We are all witnesses to two of the best teams in La Liga history, and the chance that they may meet in the Champions League Final in Munich this summer just makes this story all the more fascinating.
Never mind the brawls, hard fouls and bitterness that seem to engulf every El Clasico match. Forget about Mourinho and Guardiola, or Messi and Ronaldo. These teams are going to be remembered for being two truly dominant forces in club football, and if there’s a theme that is good versus evil, so be it. I’ll be sitting with my popcorn, ready to enjoy the show.