Things Fall Apart

The co-author of this mess; Viktor Kassai used to be of good repute.

What’s the point of writing anything?

What’s the point of caring about top class football?

On Tuesday, not a single thing known as ‘The Beautiful Game’ really mattered anyway. Professional football, meant as a platform to measure the athletic and teamwork-based merit – didn’t matter. Professional football, meant as a fair environment in which human ability to perform can be properly rewarded – didn’t matter. Professional football, meant as an area, in which you can outsmart, outdo, outplay your opponent – didn’t matter. Hell: even as a pure vehicle of global entertainment and goods marketing – it was totally irrelevant. On Tuesday night, football went backwards further than the Roman times, when Caesar’s hand gesture in Colosseum could only decide the fate of a victim. On Tuesday, football willy-nilly handpicked the victim itself. Football. Ugh.

When young Marco Asensio was through to put away first big, memorable goal of his career, my eyes weren’t even focused on his excellent strike. I was looking there, watching Mats Hummels desperately, futilely attempting to stop his swashbuckling opponent. The face of a man, who’s given not just a hundred, but hundred and ten percent to help his team – and now, after nearly two hours of absolutely exhausting madness, he cannot do it anymore. He’s getting cramps. He is drained by fifty games; fifty games he’s been through since the EURO 2016 kickoff, ten months ago. Fifty football matches in about 300 days, all crowned by the ten-men, extra-time scramble for the Champions League trophy. All that persistent, hard work – in vain.

Just like their most recently signed Dortmund star, Bayern have come to Madrid kicking and screaming, thirsty for success and completely unfazed by the awful result from the first leg. Somehow, despite fielding the oldest starting XI in their Champions League history, they’ve managed to put that miserable, second half from Munich behind them and played a fighting game instead. The Boateng-Hummels deadlock in front of Neuer heavily compensated for the visitors’ trouble in the middle of the park, as they’d safeguard all loose balls and in-behind runs the relatively poorly playing duo of Arturo Vidal and Xabi Alonso failed to intercept. Bayern were far from being on top – but they’ve continued to hang on.

Until they couldn’t do that anymore. But it wasn’t their fault. Until the 84th minute, they’ve been playing a fair game. But then, Arturo Vidal, the hot-headed Arturo Vidal who’s been behaving like a headless chicken for the majority of the game, went to the ground and made yet another, rash tackle. He’s already been booked and repeatedly warned that he cannot afford any more foul play. In Viktor Kassai’s eyes, he’s forgotten about those instructions and slid dangerously on Asensio. Second yellow card. Sending off. A proven, nasty pitch barbarian finally thrown back to the dressing room, where all dirty players belong. Surely the act of justice against the recklessness of the Chilean?

Wrong. Very wrong. Because the tackle was clean. Because Vidal was faster to the ball than his opponent and clearly played it. Because he’s even managed to keep his legs on the level of the ground, thus eliminating the risk of breaking someone’s ankles. Because, if anything, it was Asensio, who fouled him by sticking his foot into the sliding boot of his rival. If there was any reasoning behind this red card, it was the halo effect bias from the referee. Faced with a problem needing a quick resolve, he simply assumed that Vidal’s action was exactly of the same kind as the actions he’s been taking for the past 84 minutes. And since the player hasn’t done much but fouling and provoking the opponents – he fell victim to his reputation.

From that point onward, the match was nothing but suffering for Bayern. 30 minutes more at Santiago Bernabeu. Nightmare. However, they weren’t even close to filling the euthanasia consent form when it was that man again, Viktor Kassai, who’s put them out of misery once and for all. How on Earth the three officials did not manage to notice Ronaldo’s offside position for the extra-time equalizer? We will never find out. Nor we’ll hear about Cristiano’s another offside goal, scored after Marcelo’s incredible solo run that set him up for one-on-one with Neuer. The Brazilian has decided to be unselfish and give it to his Portuguese teammate for a hat-trick. Nice gesture: too bad that the unexpecting CR7 still did not manage to get level with his left-back in time. Another goal. Another one bites the dust.

Did I mention that Ronaldo scored a hat-trick? Oh yeah. Guess what – nobody cares.

Unsurprisingly, after this mockery of justice, Carlo Ancelotti’s press conference closely resembled an interview with resigning Richard Nixon. The Italian boss did not hesitate and called out all three shocking decisions, urging UEFA to pick better officials and finally giving his support to the idea of video replays. Obviously, supplying men like Kassai with help in form of technology would help: but then, as usual, it would take a massive, organized movement, involving many more big personalities like Bayern boss, to change the current situation. So, in short: every single big club would have to first suffer the consequences of referees’ grave incompetence, before the union against it could be ever formed.

And before that happens, we’re all stuck in the current situation; the situation, in which people’s hard work, dedication, pain they’re going through in order to chase their dreams – it all gets no respect whatsoever. Nobody at UEFA cares about it at all. Worse: even if they did care, there’s no realistic way to predict it. After all, Kassai, the referee with 27 years worth of experience, has been known to be a solid, well-qualified official. His biggest howler thus far has been a rather minor Europa League game between Braga and Arsenal, in which his mistakes have helped the Portuguese side to score a 2-0 upset. With a Champions League final and multiple games at EUROs under his belt, the Hungarian looked like a safe bet for this big clash.

So now, all that’s left to be done for a neutral fan is hoping that either Atlético, Monaco or Juventus are able to end this moral conundrum by eliminating Real in a fair and square, two-leg tie. Not because of hard feelings towards Los Merengues; not because of continuous suspicions that Florentino Pérez has been corrupting people (though he’s already been proven to pay €300,000 for a bogus website filled with false information aimed at boosting his club’s image). No. The reason for wishing Real Madrid a quick elimination is that should they avoid it and lift the trophy after the June final in Cardiff – that trophy will forever carry an asterick in memory of Bayern. AKA: the eleven that got screwed over.

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