With the protocol breach from Nélson Semedo, who attended an unauthorised party this week, question marks must be put over the players’ sense of responsibility.
FC Barcelona’s Portuguese right-back Nélson Semedo has been on the news headlines a lot these past two months. But until a couple of days ago, these were rumors of a player and his team having mutually agreed to part ways, and looking for better suitors. Semedo has been considered as a make-weight with teams from almost all the major football leagues in Europe.
That was until two days ago. If those were undesirable publicity, things just took a deep dive for Semedo in the past two days. On the 10th of June, Spanish TV program Deportes Cuatro exposed Semedo taking part in his friends’ birthday party. The party with allegedly twenty participants was in fact a violation of various protocols that are in place in light of the spread of COVID–19. While La Liga has given strict instructions to players to limit their interactions, the location where the party took place has a phase two lock down where the limit for meetings is set at fifteen people.
❛ He was really worried, of course. He wasn’t completely aware of the situation, it’s obvious he made an error. He has apologised to me and everyone. It was a mistake, nothing more ❜
on Nélson Semedo breaking the rules
But the behavior of the player has far reaching implications beyond the rules and protocols. For one, the return of La Liga, after a break of nearly three months, is right around the corner. The government has green-lit the return of the league, albeit with empty stadiums, and the league themselves are taking measures to ensure the safety of the players and other staff. But there are still doubts over the feasibility of resuming sport, especially a contact sports like football.
Barcelona is returning to action this evening when they visit Mallorca in an attempt to defend their La Liga title – a race which they are leading by mere inches. Nélson Semedo’s party could have thrown a spanner in coach Quique Setién’s plans as the former was forced to train in isolation the following day.
Real Madrid’s Luka Jović was just another of the several La Liga players to have broken the rules in the past days | Photo by Imago
Semedo’s latest test for the virus has come out negative, according to Catalan publication Sport. Manager Setién later made a statement that the footballers’ act was an oversight owing to the latter’s lack of awareness. But that exactly is the point. While fans around the world would love to see their teams play again, there is no denying that everyone involved are still taking huge risks. There are various protocols in place and players will be tested and re-tested. However, there also a lot of other people including the ground staff, the medical staff and many more involved, who are taking huge risks to their lives as well as their families. It is therefore imperative that the players show awareness and responsibility.
❛ What we are thinking is that if players keep doing this we’ll have to consider having obligatory concentrations. We hope we don’t have to, but if people keep going to barbecues and parties we might have to. La Liga has shown a lot of faith in players so, please don’t break the rules as that harms La Liga and people’s health in general ❜
La Liga president on players breaking the protocols
The Portuguese’s act of impertinence is not isolated, though. Several players from Sevilla, including Éver Banega, Lucas Ocampos, Franco Vázquez and Luuk de Jong, flouted the rules earlier, as did Real Madrid’s Luca Jović. Jović had later apologised for his act through social media. The latest incident has invited severe criticism from various corners including La Liga chief Javier Tebas, and deservedly so. The Liga boss has warned the players that if they cannot stop going to barbecues or parties, the league will be pushed towards enforcing a lockdown for the teams between matches.
The Copa del Rey could be Barcelona’s only saving grace this season
With the league out of sight, and the Champions League a distant dream, the Copa del Rey could be the saving grace Barcelona are looking for this season.
As much as it wrenches a Culés‘ heart to see the club they once witnessed conquer Europe with all it’s might now look like a pale shadow of its former self, it’s also vital to come to terms with the fact that Barça are still in the process of recovery, patching their wounds while attempting to rediscover its former glory.
Winning the Champions League and La Liga will invariably be the main motive at a club as big as Barcelona. Still, for once, the chances of contending with Europe’s elite seems immensely slim, especially with the continuous spells of inconsistencies the Azulgranas have endured this season.
Woefully, the club have also made it a customary practice to flounder against relatively bigger oppositions, cracking under pressure in amateur fashion. It’s safe to assume these old habits will once again die hard.
It might be a little too late to kickstart a challenge for the league, as Atletico Madrid do not appear to be showing any signs of slowing down in the league and teams like Bayern Munich and Manchester City are always major forces to reckon with in the Champions League. Not to mention, last year’s finalists – PSG – await Barça in the round of 16, who will undoubtedly be a tough nut to crack over the two legs. Having a shot against established sides in one of the club’s most vulnerable states does not seem plausible in the slightest.
However, despite the chances of winning the two big trophies looking ever so minuscule, the Copa Del Rey stands in solitude, waiting to reconcile with the team that has one way or another always found itself reclaiming this esteemed trophy as it habitually dresses in the Blaugrana colours at the end of the campaign.
Having been knocked out disgracefully in the Spanish Super Cup finals, the Copa del Rey may end up being a crucial source of silverware for the Catalan giants. The prize may not be as notable as the aforementioned competitions, yet it undeniably holds value and possesses the ability to save Barcelona’s turbulent season.
Albeit there’s no guaranteeing the road to success will be a stroll in the park for the Blaugranas, it’s apparent that the situation has been made considerably easier, as the fickle finger of fate blesses Barça’s fortunes with the shocking exits of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Additionally, the fact that Sevilla square up against Valencia and Real Betis lock horns with Real Sociedad implies that two prominent teams will be forced to bid farewell to the competition in the next round, making Barça’s road to the final substantially less complicated.
While the Copa Del Rey’s primary stages are typically utilized to award youngsters and players from the B team opportunities with the first team, Ronald Koeman understandably appears to be opting for his best players in the upcoming round of 16 clash against Rayo Vallecano, who sit at 4th place in the Segunda Division.
Owing to the fact that two of Spain’s biggest teams have already departed the competition indicates that there is simply no margin for error and seeing how even the underdogs cannot be underestimated, Barca must use this as a lesson to showcase their winning mentality, even against sides from the lower divisions.
“It is an important moment of the season, we are doing well away from home. We will put up a strong line-up tomorrow. We know that the Cup is the shortest way to win something.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-game press conference
For a team that has basked in silverware and has reigned supreme on the big stage for years, it’s absolutely quintessential to get back to winning ways. After a season full of turmoil, the Copa Del Rey is the least Barça should salvage. With the context perfect for victory, the acclaimed Spanish Competition could very well be Barça’s saving grace this season, and possibly sow the seeds for success.
Of course, it is too soon to write Barça off in any competition yet, but if there’s one thing the club have proven time and time again, it is that they are still a serious work in progress. That said, the Copa Del Rey would be a respectable achievement for Barcelona during these troubling times. Although it may seem as if it is simply an acceptance of mediocrity, the cup would be a great stepping stone for the future, a chance to not only lift silverware again; but also to get into the habit of winning.