When I moved to Barcelona in 1989 one of the first things that struck me about Barça’s followers was an apparent paranoia towards football’s authorities. Leagues had been lost due to biased refereeing and the powers that be were constantly conspiring against the Catalan club in favour of their darlings Real Madrid.
As an outsider I saw this as the typical feeling of many football fans who find it impossible to be objective about refereeing decisions. It seemed reasonable to believe that under Franco’s dictatorship there might have been favoritism but surely since the restoration of democracy things were now fair and above board.
Over the years Real Madrid seem to benefit practically every season from more penalty decisions in their favour. However, perhaps because I believe that if you lose you should look at your own mistakes rather than blaming bad luck or external forces, I have always preferred to ignore the conspiracy theories.
Unfortunately, some things are impossible to explain without the involvement of some behind-the-scenes power, and UEFA’s decision yesterday to fine Barça €40,000 falls into this category. Barça have been fined due to UEFA’s rules which prohibit political symbols and the booing of anthems after fans raised the Catalan Independence flag, La Estelada, at the recent Champions League game with Bayer Leverkusen.
The rules may be in place to stop racial abuse and incitement to violence but this is clearly not the case here. Just as there was no violence at the Champions League Final when Barça were fined for the same reason, the game with Leverkusen was completely peaceful. The fact that Atlético Madrid were fined only €11,000 and Benfica only €20,000 for the violent incidents and flare throwing at their recent game demonstrates either an appalling incompetence in UEFA’s fight against violence in the game or something more sinister which some friends insist is an anti-Barça campaign.
The harshness of the FIFA transfer ban is more evidence that they are out to get us. The problem with this paranoia is we end up sensing underhand behaviour in everything. It’s not just every penalty that we are denied or Madrid are awarded, it is the tax cases against Barça players and the accusations of irregularities in the Neymar transfer deal.
Barça may not be as squeaky clean as we would like to believe but UEFA are clearly mistaken in this latest case. The lower fines for Atlético and Benfica, where it’s not too much to say that somebody could have been killed, clearly show the authorities care less about our safety when we go to football matches than they care about controlling our freedom of expression and defending their own image.