The Ayza Gámez/Cristiano Ronaldo Incident
Ayza Gámez. Does that name ring a bell to you? Before last Sunday, it meant absolutely jack to you and me. Now, you might know him as the guy who sent off the reigning Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. He sent off the Real Madrid talisman in their match against Athletic Bilbao because of this kerfuffle.
Ayza Gámez was suspended one month by the RFEF Refereeing Technical Committee because of that.
My initial reaction and really it still stands as what the hell? Immediately I thought that the powers that be were punishing a man for doing his job, that just happened to involve sending off one of the world’s biggest stars. It should not be news to anyone that a league would show favoritism to its stars, no matter the sport. At the same time though, I wondered if Cristiano Ronaldo’s red card was even that big of an offense. Watch the video again and it’s ultimately still subjective to your eyes as it is to mine. Hands to the face is always going to illicit the best/worst of theatrics from footballers – that’s just the world we live in. It will always catch the referee’s attention and I don’t blame Gámez for the booking. Part of my reasoning for this involves a discussion I had with our good friend and guest of the podcast, Thomas Conn of Inside Spanish Football. The preface to this conversation about the Gámez/Cristiano Ronaldo incident is that La Liga referees are terrible. That’s what Thomas has told me over time and I don’t doubt him for a minute. For us that follow MLS here in the US and have criticisms about the referees here, at least we can use the excuse that the MLS is still relatively new. La Liga has been around since 1929 – what’s their excuse for the lack of evolution of their referees? Thomas elaborates:
They make themselves a vital part of the game and demand respect in every regard and when they feel they don’t get it, they card people for dissent.
Granted it’s fair for any and all referee to have that expectation, but you don’t have to watch that many La Liga matches to know their call for it is at a supercharged level to where really it’s comical. As much of it’s a running joke about bribery allegations, you can see why Italian referees don’t have time for any of the bullshit that happens on the pitch. Whatever qualms there are of the referees in the Premier League, they’re rather minimal on the impact scale that has people clutching their pearls. Mark Clattenburg just has to remember that his banter only works in the pub and not on the pitch, at work. And I think what Mark Halsey said back in October holds a lot of weight regarding the quality of officiating in the Premier League. That said, look at the top 10 referees as ranked by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics: Howard “Fergie Time” Webb ranks number one. Notice only one Spaniard cracked the top ten? I’d be pleasantly surprised if the rest of the ranking within say the top 20 yielded no more than two other Spanish refs at best.
But back to the Gámez/Cristiano Ronaldo incident. Cristiano piefaced Bilbao’s captain Carlos Gerpugi. Coming to the defense of his comrade, Bilbao’s Ander Iturraspe actually headbutts Cristiano and amazingly only gets only a yellow for that. Reacting to that, Cristiano brushes off Iturraspe with a light slap. Cristiano conveyed that to the referee that according to Thomas, in Spain is interpreted as saying, “You gotta lotta nerve,” and historically has gotten players banned without fail. By all counts and measures, Cristiano would have received a booking for either the pieface on Gerpugi or slap on Iturraspe, but since it all happened in quick succession, Gámez just went straight to the red for the trifecta of hands to the face & dissent to the ref. And naturally after his judgement was passed, he was swarmed by the rest of the Madrid players who looked nothing short of wanting to rip his throat out as Cristiano just ironically chuckled his way off the pitch.
So that brings us to the RFEF coming out and saying Gámez had done a bad job at that match and suspended him for a month and he’s been barred from officiating in any other Real Madrid match this season. Their official ruling was inconsistent match reports when Gámez filed the initial match report and then when he had to explain his performance at the committee. Thomas is in agreement with me that it seems absurdly harsh of a punishment for Gámez.
Absolutely, but he did create a little shit storm for himself. A two match ban would’ve been enough, one maybe you could say he got off easy just because of what’s happened for the same thing in the past.
And here’s where the stars get favored treatment. It involved a Real Madrid player. What’s another thing absolute about Spanish football – the influence of Madrid and their press has on well, everything. At the same time, I did ask Thomas if Gámez has a history of being a bad referee as far as La Liga refs go and according to Pete Jenson of The Daily Mail, Gámez has a poor reputation in general.
All in all, it’s equal parts of a ref doing his job (his reputation aside in a league historically known for having terrible officials) and one of the world’s biggest clubs having the power and influence that you’d expect one of the world’s biggest clubs to have. Ironically enough, the fact that Gámez has been suspended, Real Madrid thought it would favor their appeal for Cristiano Roando’s match ban to be overturned, but it was reported on Friday that their appeal was rejected.
There are good referees, there are bad referees. No matter the league and the quality of its players, referees will always play some factor in a match one way or another. At its core, I like the fact that Gámez didn’t bow down to the star, unafraid of what the consequences might be. I think he got a raw deal because of it, but it is what it is. Decisions by the referee will always be analyzed/scrutinized (just ask Bjorn Kuipers) and I shudder to think at what vile things Madrid loyalists, fan or journalist said about Gámez.
We have to remember that referees are people too.