Real Madrid’s Pepe and Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli both hit the headlines in the last week having been caught on camara stamping on an opponent. Balotelli seemingly stamped on Scott Parker’s head yesterday during City’s 3-2 win over Tottenham, while we all saw what Pepe did to Leo Messi’s hand at the Bernabeu last Wednesday. The Football Association in England has just announced that Balotelli will be charged with violent conduct, and as a result he faces a four match ban. Tottenham will have felt hard done by yesterday as instead of being sent off at the time Balotelli stayed on the pitch to score an injury time winner from the penalty spot, however, the ban on Balotelli may have an effect on City’s title chances so, to a certain extent, you could say there has been an attempt at justice.
Unfortunately, in Spain the story is quite different. Today, surprise surprise, the Comité de Competición announced they would be taking no action against Pepe for the incident with Messi. I couldn’t say whether this has anything to do with the fact that Barça did not ask for the case to be looked at, or whether Pepe’s rather embarrassing denial/apology (and Guardiola’s acceptance of it) somehow saved him, but you really have to ask yourself what message this sends out to people.
I have no desire to see football turned into a non-contact sport. The physical side of the game is very important and sometimes I think refs can be too harsh on players when they fail to distinguish between a genuine attempt to get the ball and a deliberate foul. I also accept that a certain amount of gamesmanship is normal, if you can get your opponent to react and he gets himself sent off then you have helped your team. However, there are some acts that cross the line and disciplinary committees, wherever they might be, have a duty to try and eradicate these things from the game. In Spain today, the Comité de Competición have failed to do their duty. The message is to the Spanish people is clear: you can cheat and be violent and then lie about it and you will not be punished. Very sad indeed.