It seems as though Spanish football cannot enjoy big games without some form of poor officiating having a profound impact on the outcome - leaving one side, or sometimes both, feeling quite aggrieved.
This has definitely been the case lately, and even though in some cases it is because of a lack of help for officials – such as Barcelona’s ‘ghost goal’ against Real Betis a couple of weeks ago - the majority of cases are simply down to inadequate and baffling displays that dominate the headlines more than the performances of players.
In the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final between Barca and Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night, it was the same old story, with both teams having the right to question some decisions.
For the Catalans, despite progressing to their seventh final in nine years in this competition, joint top scorer Luis Suarez will miss the final after being harshly sent off for a second booking after fouling Koke. The Atleti midfielder made the most of Suarez’s leading arm and referee Jesus Gil Manzano seemed happy to dish out the yellow card, much to the Uruguayan’s indignation.
“My red card? We know how everything goes here,” the former Liverpool striker said after the game. “It wasn’t even a foul. I just turned and it seemed [my red] was what [the referee] wanted. We’ll see what the club can do if they appeal it. I laugh at the red card. These are things that can’t be explained, but we’re used to it.”
As for Los Rojiblanos, Antoine Griezmann had a perfectly good goal disallowed for offside halfway through the second half and if it had stood, Diego Simeone’s side would have had a very good chance of at least taking the tie to extra-time.
“Referees can be wrong, just like players, but players can be dropped and I don’t know if referees can,” he said, referring to Gil Manzano’s performance. “It’s clear to me that we have a better chance of winning the Champions League than the League and Copa…”
That Simeone feels Atleti have a better chance of winning the Champions League because of the poor refereeing in Spain speaks volumes, and shows how Coaches view officials in La Liga.
There have been accusations, namely from Barca’s Gerard Pique, that certain referees are biased and have an agenda against some teams. This is because of Javier Tebas, the President of La Liga, openly being a Real Madrid fan, but there is no evidence to support this theory and it is, hopefully, untrue.
Football officials are only human and they are bound to make mistakes. The frustrating aspect is what is arguably the best League in the world should have the same level of officiating, because games are being ruined by dreadful decisions. Admittedly, players do not help when they roll around on the floor looking for a card to be shown, or when Coaches and their staff jump from the dugout to protest, but this problem is not nearly as serious in other Leagues.
The only way that this can be alleviated is by improving the skills and capabilities of Spain’s officials, and perhaps by protecting them and giving them more support when needed, which is something that Tebas must consider.