There has been a huge uproar in the Spanish media over the past week involving radio station COPE (the full title of which translates as People’s Radiowaves of Spain Network) and the top 3 teams in La Liga – Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia.
Juan Antonio Alcalá, a journalist at the station reported that some higher-ups at Real Madrid have suspicions of doping at Barcelona and Valencia, allegations which are unfounded but still hugely serious, as much so for Real.
Just the merest mention of drugs in relation to football brings great consequence, even more so at the top tier of the game as with the clubs involved in this situation. Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said that whoever is behind the story is ‘playing with fire.’
Thus far the journalist has not revealed his sources which adds a great deal of skepticism to the accusation. Yet he remains adamant that it has come from someone at executive level at Real Madrid. Barcelona are now to take legal action claiming libel against the station as the suggestions of drug could damage their reputation.
For the teams involved this is certainly a stressful and unwanted distraction from this season’s crunch time domestically and in the European competitions.
That this situation is unsavoury goes without saying. It is interesting to note, however, the media involvement in the allegations and how this reflects upon the Spanish football press as a whole.
The rivalry between Barca and Madrid extends far beyond the pitch into political territory. When the two meet in El Clasico, followers of the political essence of the tie surmise that Madrid represent Spanish nationalism and Barcelona symbolise Catalan nationalism (Catalonia is a region of Spain of which is often the subject of activism seeking to obtain political or federal autonomy from the rest of Spain). The press are equally as divided in the support for their city’s team and hatred of the other and, as a result of these fiery temperaments, these COPE allegations have since brewed a heated battle amongst the Spanish sports media.
Kolo Toure of Manchester City recently failed a drugs test and is currently suspended pending further investigation. It gained widespread coverage but none of it biased for or against neither Toure not Man City. On the other hand, such is the politicisation of the Spanish sports press, and indeed Real Madrid and Barcelona as football teams, that it is no surprise to see biased media involvement in a sensitive and highly serious situation.
The station which broadcast the ‘story’ is based in Madrid. It is thus far unfounded and the journalist will not give up his source.
Real Madrid have yet to release an official statement denying that they made te allegations. Saying that, distancing themselves from the situation would perhaps be futile now with Barcelona beginning legal proceedings and the damage already done to some extent. Especially as COPE still maintains that the information came straight from Real.
The Catalan press have been scathing in return, immediately attacking Real. The accusations from the Barca-biased press are that the allegations have been manufactured by Madrid. Headlines (roughly translated) included “Enough already with the lies” accompanying a photograph of Real manager Jose Mourinho and at another daily, El Mundo Deportivo, the headline read “How Shameful” also with a photograph of Mourinho.
While there has been no evidence to support the doping, there is also no evidence as yet that anyone at Madrid has anything to do with the story despite the claims of the journalist.
The Catalan football press haven’t really taken the moral high-ground here. It would perhaps have been best to let the legal system shed some light on the situation prior to finger pointing. It is also dangerous for this press to accuse the Madrid board of puppeteering the journalist and radio station at the centre of the scandal.
Here in the UK there is certainly press bias towards particular teams, but would any of them be so outspoken if an apparent drugs scandal was involved?
It’ll be interesting to see how this case concludes, particularly to witness the further response Madrid and Barcelona press. Whether or not Real Madrid issue a formal statement probably bears little importance to the future headlines of the Catalan press and the stormy battle between the sides will continue.
photo by NASA on flickr.com