‘El Clasico’

2010-04-10 00:00

IT really does not get bigger than this.

As football lovers, we have been spoilt lately.

The Champions League has chucked goals and drama at us for the last month, while the English title race keeps getting crazier and crazier as they get ever closer to the thrilling finish.

Heck, even our Soweto derby last week was a thriller — even if the quality of the finishing was about as convincing as a Julius Malema apology.

But all this will pale into insignificance when put up against tonight’s fare.

If you don’t know what El Clasico means, then you should consider yourself a football novice and you really ought to weigh up watching another sport for your entertainment.

This is the biggest club game in the world.

Real Madrid against Barcelona doesn’t need hype, just as the United States playing Iraq in the World Cup didn’t need any publicity.

People will flock to these games — just to see what goes down.

They don’t even care about the result. It’s more about the reckless tackles, the red cards and the insults that waft in from the crowd.

These can range from wonderfully creative lyrics designed to dishonour everything about the opposition’s star player, and can go all the way to the wackiest mementos hurled onto the pitch.

Luis Figo, who starred for Barcelona before switching to Madrid, was lumped with the bloody head of a pig when he went to take a corner at the Nou Camp.

Football fans do not forget a traitor.

And so we move on to what will make tonight’s game that much more special.

For starters, both teams are locked at the head of the table in La Liga.

If you thought SuperSport United had a monopoly of the local PSL, you should flick through the record books in Spain.

They may as well make it a two-team league, and let the rest play for scraps.

Barcelona and Madrid are so far ahead, that the team in third place is nameless.

They simply do not exist.

Jokes aside, though, the winner tonight will take a giant step towards securing the title. With only seven games left after this, it would be suicidal to slip up now — and both teams know it.

But the real battle that we will all want to see is between a little Argentine and a strapping lad from Portugal.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are head and shoulders — and twinkle-toes — ahead of any other player in their respective sides.

They are the mega-stars, the ones who can change games with the swish of a Nike boot.

The debate has long rumbled on about who is better.

Tonight is just an opportunity to fuel the fire just a bit more.

Messi has had quite a week, as any Arsenal fan who has recovered from the trauma will happily attest.

Ronaldo has had his moments, but his side has not lived up to the hype of the world’s most expensively assembled bunch of leather kickers.

Ronaldo will want to prove a point.

So, it will be “El Puca’ against “El Grando” — the flea against the flash.

Messi has been dubbed “the flea”, and that may have as much to do with his size as it has to do with his insane ability to dance away from every kick, swat or sliding tackle that defenders around the world throw at him.

His abilities are unreal; they defy logic and they are a throwback to a time when football wasn’t about size or speed, but about skill and sorcery.

Ronaldo is no slouch too, of course. A blinding flash of speed, power and the leaping ability of a kangaroo make him a major threat around any box.

It promises delirious entertainment.

And the best part about tonight is that both defences are about as accommodating as South Africa’s border lines — despite what they may tell you on the pamphlet, they will forever leave gaping holes to be exploited by those with half a brain.

If you don’t know about El Clasico yet, then do yourself a favour and get to a screen around 9 pm tonight.

Even if it’s just to see if someone is brave enough to throw a head of bacon onto the lush Santiago Bernabeu turf.

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