Sunday, at the Camp Nou, in Barcelona, Spain, the near-sellout crowd gave its now customary 14th minute ovation in memory of Johan Cruyff, who passed last month. It was the only verifiable noise that has come out of the FC Barcelona camp since their 0-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid eliminated the Qatari Catalans from the Champions League.
For a team that has not once admitted that they have been cheating and receiving officiating largesse all season long, for a team that has vehemently denied any wrong doing or any unfair advantage on those occasions when they have been called out, for a team that spent days using every possible media venue to defend their undeserved victory over Atletico in their first leg, at the Camp Nou, Barca has been very quiet after their recent and ignominious exit from European play. Where are all the team blog posts now?
What makes their quiet Champions League exit telling is that the Catalans only needed to score once to get into the semifinals, and if they had been awarded the penalty they should have been, for that now famous Atleti hand ball block in the box, in the waning moments of the match at the Calderon, Barca would have had a great chance to advance. To this moment no one at Barcelona has made the type of ruckus one would expect from a team that was clearly aggrieved and which has often fought mere suspensions and yellow cards by suffusing media outlets with their take, and done so forcefully. Could it be they are finally too embarrassed to speak out?
Yesterday, Barcelona lost 1-2, in a La Liga match at home, to Valencia CF, and surprisingly for the hosts, the officiating actually went against them, as the visitors got away with quite a few uncalled infractions. Could it be that La Liga, UEFA, and/or FIFA are finally catching up with what has been reported by byteclay.com for the past couple of months, and are pushing the officiating pendulum to the other end? Or is there something else afoot?
To get a grip on an alternate perception let us look at a few things that on the surface seem unrelated, and might yet be, but are nevertheless beginning to look very much related.
We all know that FIFA’s debacle stemmed from the moment in 2010 when the last straw dropped, when the 2022 World Cup was suspiciously awarded to Qatar. We have all witnessed the precipitous fall so many of the sports’ global leaders suffered and are suffering, and we keep hearing that several suspect money trails, dating as far back as the 2006 World Cup, seem to dead end in Qatar. The Qatari’s have not put on a full-court press defense on these money trail suspicions. Maybe, keeping a low profile on this front seemed like a good idea to the kingdom.
Most recently, on a similar vein, when the Panama Papers hit, Qatar’s Al Jazeera News network was identifying all types of world leaders who seemed to have been involved in wrongdoing, only they were selective in their coverage. The former Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the father of the current Emir, was somehow not prominently mentioned. Perhaps keeping a low profile on this front seemed like a good idea to the kingdom.
Qatar is the nation which houses the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS), which broke the global football game fixing story three years ago, the one that found hundreds of games around the world (about 700), Europe included, had been fixed. It is interesting to note that there was no mention of Barca among those game fixing transgressions. Could be that keeping a low profile on this front seemed like a good idea to the kingdom.
Whatever the root reason for the Catalan’s uncharacteristic reticence, it is telling that Barca, once boasting an unassailable 9-12-point lead in La Liga and on their way to a Champions League semi-final slot, are now only a tie-breaker ahead of Atleti and a point ahead of Real Madrid in La Liga, and eliminated from European play, AND are simply taking it on the chin and not reacting. They are not railing against anyone, in fact they didn’t even make a fuss over Lionel Messi’s 500th goal yesterday.
Their silence is just, well, deafening.