The Stain on Madrid's White Shirt
In a sport where colors are so closely linked to a club’s identity, Real Madrid identifies itself with a color seen as virtuous and unadulterated; almost virginal. The white of Real Madrid’s home shirt is a convenient visual metaphor for the club’s status. Brides wear white. Priests wear white. The good guys wear white. The prestige of nine European titles and 31 league trophies is reflected in the pristine white shirt.
Why, then, would Real Madrid allow Pepe to be a stain on the club’s image? The Portuguese defender viciously stomping on the hand of the world’s most popular player is an image that has made its rounds in global media. Pepe’s actions are bad PR and in defeat, they make one of the world's classiest clubs look petty and villainous. His repeated indiscretions shatter the threshold of aggressive play and fall into the category of downright dirty.
There is a fine line between an aggressive player and a dirty player. Pepe dragged a muddy boot well beyond that line in 2009, when he kicked Getafe’s Javier Casquero (twice) and then punched Juan Albin, before cursing out a referee on his way to an early shower.
The stomp on Messi’s hand in the King’s Cup quarterfinal confirms his reputation as dirty player. But Pepe's actions are nothing if not consistent with Jose Mourinho’s version of Real Madrid. In his post-game press conference, Mourinho, - who claims to have missed the incident - said, “if it happened, it would be censurable.” Who among us believes Mourinho would punish such a thing?
The Special One's track record at Real Madrid suggests the coach is more likely to encourage Pepe's actions than to vilify them. Lest we forget Mourinho's infamous eye-gouge on Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova - the man he referred to as 'Pito' Vilanova, while pretending not to know him.
Mourinho's most memorable line from Wednesday's post-game press conference is a potent one. The manager told reporters at the Bernabeu that "victories have many fathers; defeats only one." In my humble opinion, it's not the Clasico losses that Mourinho should own up to, but the gradual degradation of Real Madrid's good name.