Τρίτη, 31 Μαρτίου 2009

"Honorable" referees *

For all of those who ever watched Partizan’s games, or at least saw the results made this season in Euroleague with such a talented, but very young team, they all know that what Partizan has experienced was in fact a fairy tale, or perhaps even a dream. A team consisting of a very smart and cool-minded Tepic, an all-round shooter such as Tripkovic, a very powerful Rakocevic, who can be seen as a clone of Pekovic, a very athletic and strong Lasme, an extremely young, yet brave fighter such as Vesely, and the man with the heart of 3 lions and strong will and determination that I have not seen in many years in ANY player, Novica Velickovic. Such a team has beat giants throughout this season, and those before, but everyone was surprised, except maybe me. One might call me an extreme optimist; even when my team is down 8 points and there’s still 2 minutes left, I always think to myself that there is still time, or there might be some chance that the opposing team messes up on offence, and gets the ball to my team. But when it came to Partizan, all of my optimism was true. That is, until last night.

CSKA Moscow
is a team to be respected and revered. A team consisting of 2 top class players on each position, a very high budget which allows them to buy and keep such players, and in my opinion their greatest strength, Ettore Messina. A very smart man, able to change tactics within a second, mostly due to the discipline he maintains within the team. Some experts say he is good enough to be a coach in the NBA even (I still think NBA sucks, and that their coaches are not good enough for European teams). Now a question arises: What would you expect to happen in a matchup between these two teams? Well, a very logical and simple answer would be the easy victory of CSKA. They have better players, higher budget, better coach. But does that really matter in a game? Does it really matter how much a player on the opposing team is worth more than you? Or the bigger amount of money they possess? Or the better captain that’s leading the basketball vessel?

The first two games were a complete disaster for Partizan
, but I wasn’t expecting much from them anyway, since they were playing them in Moscow. The lack of offensive creativity complemented by the sheer inexperience of these young players could only spell defeat for Partizan. In the first game, we were fortunate enough that CSKA’s offence was not functioning well either, and we lost that game with a mere 9 points. I say ‘mere’, because the next game’s difference was 27 points. What CSKA tried to do with that 27 point difference was to completely demoralize Partizan for the next game which was to be held in the Belgrade Arena (the same Arena which only about a few weeks ago broke the record for most attendance at a Euroleague match: 22567). One thing I did notice about the games though, was that even though both teams played solid and extremely aggressive defense, Partizan had a larger amount of fouls in both games. Not to mention all of the other suspicious calls made by the ‘honorable’ referees. But I thought: “Nah, they wouldn’t DARE do that in Belgrade... right?”

Oh, how mistaken I was. The downright theft that happened at the 3rd and final game of the series between CSKA Moscow and Partizan Igokea Belgrade was the the cherry on top of the icing. As I will not go into the game details, and each and every player of the Moscow team pissed me off more than when Serbia lost to France in 2005 on our own soil, I will stick to the many referee ‘mistakes’ that have happened during the game. First of all, I should start by noting that the Serbian television took an unusually analytical angle when it came to suspicious referee calls, so I had an extremely good viewpoint of every one of them. As in the previous games, CSKA’s aggressive defense was not penalized as much as Partizan’s. A good example was this one: on of CSKA’s attacks, Trajan Langdon was shooting a 3-pointer, and after he released the shot, Tepic caught his hand, and the referees signaled a foul. Though that was disputable, it can still be regarded as a foul, so I let that slide by me. Only minutes after, Rasic was also attempting a 3-pointer, and he got fouled the same way. But guess what, no call. Tepic had an identical situation, but this time it was more obvious, and yet STILL no call. Another of the referees countless mistakes were calls that were made after the attack of CSKA was signaled over (as in, 24 seconds passed). One both occasions, CSKA attackers were making hasty and aggressive drives into the basket through the center, and the Partizan player ‘fouled’ them. Problem was, on both occasions, the shot clock was out of time. This could clearly be seen, as the Serbian television had a small shotclock in the corner of the screen whenever they replayed the action. The shotclock showed a big, clear, red 0, and THEN the foul and the call were made.

Although I did promise I would not talk about players, I would like to address just one, whose situation coincides with the bad refereeing at the game. Matjaz Smodis is a very experienced player, with very good technique, as well as good outside shoot considering his size. But from now on, for me he will be the biggest scum I have ever seen touch a basketball. He should receive an Oscar for Best Female Actor (the female is intentional) tomorrow, because his/her performance tonight was just outstanding. It really brought tears to my eyes, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. I far as I know, acting/flopping in basketball is supposed to be sanctioned with a technical foul. But, I guess I’m just stupid, since the judges apparently know the rules better than I do. Velickovic fouled Smodis who was holding the ball at the top of the 3 point line. The foul was there, that is undeniable, but the fact was that Smodis blatantly dramatized the foul, and made it look as though Velickovic hit him with an anvil. Velickovic being the fighter (in a good way) that he always is, told Smodis to stop acting, to which Smodis replied by going into Velickovic’s face. The refs were fast enough to break them apart before Velickovic would break Smodis’ neck (he probably would, considering he broke a guy’s head about 5 years ago when he was only 17 at the game between Partizan and Hemofarm), but they were either too blind or too stupid to call a technical on Smodis.

I could go on like this until next season begins, but I just wanted to give you the gems. Now if you would please scroll back to the end of the second paragraph. Check out the second last sentence there. Does it really matter? Or is it just a coincidence that every time the refs are one-sided, that it is always against Partizan? Because, the fact is that Partizan does in fact, regardless of the tradition or current results, have the smallest budget and general financial power of all of the Euroleague teams (apparently, even smaller than SLUC Nancy, who I’ve never even heard of before this season). The fact is that they are from Serbia, a nation which gets fucked by everyone who’s bored and needs something to do. But, to keep this article nationalism-free, I’ll stick to the first fact. So, is it fair for a team who has worked hard, put all of their lives into their training, played games against much greater opponents and prevailed against them, to lose in such a dishonest way? For me, the Euroleague has just died. If they allowed themselves to become so soulless, so heartless and so shallow to be easily won over by money and power, then I think that Partizan has nothing else to ask from the Euroleague, and should simply leave it for good.

I apologize for the tone of this essay, but as you can see from it, my passion for basketball and Partizan runs very deep in my blood, and I cannot stand to see them lose in such a way. Winning against CSKA is almost an impossibility for such a team, and so even though a defeat would bring me some pain, a defeat such a this dishonest one is even more of a burden on my soul.

*by Lazar Mišković, a committed Partizan fan

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