The man in the middle

It isn’t unusual to see referees take some stick from the Press in Spain but last weekend both Jose Antonio Texeira Vitienes and Fernando Texeira Vitienes made more than the usual headlines. Atletico de Madrid went from first to third. It took them 17 years to take top spot but they stayed there for just six days. They lost away to Almeria and the finger was being pointed at one man and just one man: the ref.

‘Strange things are happening: there were things that could have changed the result’ said Atletico’s Tiago, who was on the receiving end of a brutal tackle against Almeria. Cholo Simeone wasn’t pointing the finger at Texeira Vitienes but the Press and fans were. It was him and only him to blame for the defeat. But, his brother was not to be outdone. 24 hours after the Atleti game, the other Vitienes was taking charge of Sevilla against Barca and he too would influence the result.

The referee headlines started before last Saturday. Ayza Gamez sent off Cristiano Ronaldo in San Mames. Ronaldo got a three-match ban and although he appealed the Spanish FA refused to budge. Straight away the ‘Villarato’ articles and comments came out. A few years ago, Barca backed the re-election of Angel Maria Villar and Real Madrid didn’t. The result is what the Madrid Press and fans believe has been favourable treatment for Barca. Every time a decision goes Barca’s way or against Real Madrid, fans are only too quick to point the finger.

Ronaldo’s sending off was supposed to once again prove that the officials are biased but Gamez also got himself into some trouble. He won’t be around for a month because he failed to complete his match report properly. Real Madrid have also been accused of preferential treatment. For non-Real Madrid fans the fact that Gamez was hung out to dry was a sign that those who dare stand up to the club will face a fall.

The Copa was a chance for all the weekend’s errors to be forgotten but once again the man with the whistle would cause debate. Real Sociedad were left fuming when they were denied a penalty and had a player sent off for protesting. One player couldn’t hold his tongue and took to Twitter to express his feelings.

‘When will the mentality of the referee’s change. Is it possible for a team that isn’t Barca or Real Madrid to reach the final? What is it: Fear? Are they obliged? Have they been bought? Are they fans?’ raged Diego Ifran after La Real’s Copa tie against Barca. He will be punished but his words are what many think and they have been retweeted over a thousand times.

The Spanish FA is not non-known for facing problems head on. Like the situation regarding TV broadcasting rights, refereeing in Spain was been poor and poorly organised for a number of years. It needs to be addressed but for that the FA must admit there is a problem. Are they capable of that?