El Clasico honor guard – Looking back on a "broken tradition"
Real Madrid will be the first visitor to Barcelona since the title was secured, but will not form an honor guard in El Clásico.
Barcelona's 4-2 triumph against Deportivo La Coruña last weekend confirmed the news that they are champions of Spain and, according to tradition, they are expected to be received on the pitch in their next league game by an honor guard, or corridor . Appropriately, the next one is El Clásico at Camp Nou.
While Deportivo's decision to give Barça a corridor -for its triumph in the Copa del Rey- was seen as a mark of respect and astonishment, for Real Madrid it would probably be perceived as the greater ignominy. After all, there is a fine line between showing respect and being humiliated, and for some that line runs directly through an honor guard.
Considering the recent comments of Zinedine Zidane, the formation of Madrid seems unlikely, however, remains the hot topic before the clash on Sunday, which this time makes little sense.
However, despite the antipathy of Madrid, Zidane's side would be far from the first team to form an honor guard at El Clásico and they even received such privilege in May 2008.
El Clasico Mode pic.twitter.com/eMDEAvKrDh
– Real Madrid CF (@realmadriden) May 3, 2018
"THE CHAMPIONS FESTIVAL"
The 2007-08 season was terrible for Barça. Not only did Madrid win the title comfortably with 18 points more than their big rivals, but the men of Frank Rijkaard also finished 10 points behind the second Villarreal.
Although Barça crushed Valencia 6-0 before the Clásico clash on May 7, 2008, they could not deny Madrid the right to claim the title, preparing things perfectly to complete the last humiliation of their nemesis.
"The match of the champions", said the cover of the Madrid newspaper AS on the morning of the game. The notoriously pro-Madrid brand went with "Barça is here", accompanying an image that shows where visitors should form their honor guard.
And the Catalan publication Sport highlighted the other side of things, saying, "the corridor that suffers alone", and adding, "Barça fans do not deserve to have to see the corridor ".
Despite the brazen nose rubbing of the Madrid press and the intense humiliation that was about to happen to them, Barça was as friendly as you would expect.
"Although it hurts, we will," said Rijkaard. The captain of the club, Carles Puyol, sang from a similar sheet of hymns: "As an athlete you must recognize the champion, and we will do that, they have won it in the field, Real Madrid has been a fair champion".
Focus on # ElClassic when players return to work
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) 3 May 2018
FROM A HALL TO A PAST
The emotions of the two coaches that night could not have been more different. Rijkaard slowly stopped and took his position, with his hands behind his back, before the Barça players trotted off and formed two lines on either side of the finish line, the Bernabeu's cameras blinking incessantly and cheerfully.
Meanwhile, Bernd Schuster watched as his team from Madrid walked triumphantly down the red-and-blue walls corridor, twenty years after being part of the last honor guard that Barça organized at El Clásico, wearing a Barça shirt.
Captain Raúl led Madrid on the turf of the Santiago Bernabéu, shaking hands – like most of his teammates – with Rijkaard, before passing especially to Xavi and Puyol, followed closely as a puppy of easy influence by Sergio Ramos
Some, like Pepe, Fernando Gago and Wesley Sneijder, walked in the middle, apparently preserving the idea of a true rivalry by refusing to thank their counterparts for the demeaning act of a Classical honor guard.
But looking back, the honor guard was the least embarrassing part of the night for Barça. What started with a corridor ended in an impasse, as the visitors stayed on level terms from as little as 12 minutes: Raul put Madrid in early advantage.
Arjen Robben went shortly after, before the second half the goals of Gonzalo Higuain and Ruud van Nistelrooy achieved a convincing victory, and Thierry Henry's last effort was a mere consolation. Madrid won 4-1, but it was a score that flattered Barça.
# El Clasico … pic.twitter.com/lI9Mo3cCTa
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 3, 2018
A BROKEN TRADITION
Despite the insistence of Jordi Alba, Barça deserves a guard of honor, nothing in the preparation of this match has suggested Let Madrid go to greet your hosts.
It all comes down to his encounter with Clásico in December, when Barça refused to give one to Madrid after having won the Club World Cup.
The reason for Barça on that occasion is that an honor guard only forms if both teams had participated in the competition that the other won. The Catalans did not participate in the Club World Cup, so they felt that they were not obliged to recognize the success of Madrid in such a formal way.
Zinedine Zidane eluded this situation, giving little room for maneuver: "Barcelona broke the tradition."
Any doubt from that point of view will surely indicate an order from above and maybe that displeasure is what Madrid needs to take a kick in the back against a team that has been far superior to them all season in LaLiga.
Experience how it feels to walk in the Camp Nou before El Clásico … #HalaMadrid pic.twitter.com/2qko2zXvM4
– Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) December 3, 2016