In what looks to be a change of rules with far reaching consequences, UEFA has ruled that all teams playing Barcelona from now on in the Champions League will start with 12 men in their side. This judgment comes close on the heels of the extremely volatile Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Michel Platini, the President of UEFA communicated this rule to the media less than 48 hours after Jose Mourinho had made some strong remarks about the Catalan side.
“UEFA is always interested in fairplay. We go to extra lengths to ensure that we provide a fair and even platform for all clubs to perform to the best of their abilities. Keeping this in mind, it has been decided that all teams facing FC Barcelona will now start with 12 men in their side. Based on the trend that we have observed previously with Barcelona, we believe that this will eventually lead to a proper balancing of the sides and will deliver a good contest on the pitch.”
He also clarified that this ruling will stand for both the group stage and the knockout stage. He also said that this rule will come into effect only from the next edition of Champions league ruling out any possibility of a dramatic comeback by Real Madrid in the 2nd leg.
“We cannot discriminate between teams who qualify to the next stage and those who don’t. That won’t be fair. And we are all for fairplay. So we try to be fair.” said Platini.
When asked about other fairplay issues such as allowing technology to be allowed on the pitch to ensure proper and fair decision making, Platini refused to comment saying that he did not want to see PlayStation in the stadium.
This decision, has quite expectedly, brought about some strong reactions among the who’s who of european football. One of the first to respond to the new rule was none other than Jose Mourinho himself.
“Whats the point now? UEFA tries to do something after everything is over. And they are not even allowing us to enforce this rule in the 2nd leg. This only shows that Barcelona has influence even over UEFA themselves. I am the best coach on this planet. I beat Barcelona with 10 men in the previous El Classico. Now who can claim that on their resume? I don’t need 12 players to beat Barcelona! I need 11 and a fair referee! But UEFA will never make sure of that. Especially not when Barcelona is playing.”, he said.
Arsene Wenger, whose side has been getting repeatedly humiliated by Messi and Co., appeared to approve of the gesture by UEFA.
“This actually is bigger than just Barcelona. This is about playing the game on a level playing field. You cannot have a level playing field when one of the teams is bound to be reduced to 10 men AND while the other team has the best player in football history. It is plain common sense. Just look at how our boys have been getting humiliated and defeated by one, having a key player sent off and two, Messi going free to score”, he contended.
When pointed out that Arsenal could not string more than 3 passes together for the first 70 mins of the Last 16 tie when they were playing with all 11 men, Arsene Wenger only replied, “But who was winning at that time?”
Pep Guardiola on the other hand was already thinking about how to tackle the situation. He said,”We will respect the rules of UEFA. If they feel that we are not providing a level playing platform, then we will make sure that this will not be repeated. But at the same time, we have our commitment to the fans to win more trophies come what may. I am talking about our commitment to the fans that we will do anything it takes to win trophies with the only condition being that we need to play beautiful football. This will make us look like we “deserve” to win simply because we play the more entertaining football. If this happens, whatever else we do on the pitch will not matter at all!”
“So in order to honor that commitment, we will work harder because we will now need to get 2 players sent off. This means that we need to spend more time to over dramatize the tackles while making sure that it still looks real. We will probably hire a WWE superstar for this purpose.” he elaborated.
The commitment of the players to the cause was immediately evident. Dani Alves wrote on his Twitter account:
“Must spend more time training the youth in the academy to fake falls and injuries. The future needs to be ready.”
However, Pedro appeared to be disappointed with himself for being unable to get an opponent player a yellow card during the game in spite of going down clutching his face. He tweeted
“Must hold correct part of body in pain. Holding face instead of body part that was in contact doesn’t work. Sorry fans. Will do better next time.”
It is reported that Pedro was using the ‘Long Update” feature in Tweetdeck.
Sir Alex Ferguson was fuming at the rule for not being enforced this season itself.
“Why shouldn’t it be enforced now itself? Let it take effect from the finals onwards. Why should people who play Barcelona only from next season get a different treatment? This is not fair. We are a club whose sole purpose is to create a self-righteous fan base by winning more trophies and by having a rich history. You know, rich history is the only parameter behind supporting any club. And we need to achieve it by doing anything it takes. We also like to hunt for glory. We should also be allowed to field 12 players in the final. We have more or less qualified to it” he said.
Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager on the other hand was thinking along totally different lines.
“Roman Abromovic wants one thing and one thing only. The Champions League trophy. If this rule is enforced from next season, then we need to think of using it to our advantage. If we can get one of our players to be sent off in every single game in the next season, then we will have a case to argue that we need to START with 12 players, irrespective of whether we are playing Barcelona or not. So this way, we can start the entire season after next with 12 men and then make sure that we will NOT get sent off! I think I can finally win the Champions League for Roman.” he said.
ESPN football self proclaimed pundit Shebby Singh was already analyzing what players should be chosen for that 12th man. Speaking to John Dykes, he said,
“You see John. The teams need to think smart. They need to think out of the box. Irrespective of how many players you have on the pitch, you have to simply accept the fact that you cannot stop Messi from scoring. The only way you CAN stop that is to use that extra 12th man as an extra goalkeeper! Now Messi will need to get past not one but TWO goalies if he has to score! I think this is a very important point and all teams must give it a thought. “
He continued, “There is actually another role for the 12th man John. This thing just flashed to me. What if…what if the only purpose of that 12th man is to influence the referee to give decisions AGAINST Barcelona? Think of it John. This is actually a very good idea. Why just stop at making a level playing field? See if you can get the better hand! Get the 12th man to do what Barcelona is doing. Get him to dive, fall, fake injuries and complain to the referee everytime a Barcelona player goes past him. Then the ref has to take some action surely! This might actually lead to a Barcelona player getting sent off. Then you can substitute this 12th man with a real footballer and seize the advantage in the game! This is a very good idea!”
By this time, John Dykes was reportedly choking on Shebby Singh’s smug.