When he stomped on Javier Casquero in April 2009, Pepe was sent off and handed a 10-match ban. It's easily arguable to say that his deliberate stamp on Lionel Messi's hand during their
Champions League Copa del Rey encounter last night was nowhere near as bad. Yet it is merely a part of a pattern of behavior that stretches back at least to the beginning of his Real Madrid career and it deserves a lengthy suspension.
The match last night had several moments of contemptible actions by both teams, including Xabi Alonso's repeated deliberate fouls and Ricardo Carvalho's tackle from behind on Lionel Messi. Cesc Fabregas kicked out at Pepe, and Lionel Messi and Fabio Coentrao got into it before the latter attempted to shove the former's head into the ground. Both teams also engaged in play acting resulting from some of this harsh play and Pepe was a major actor in that part as well.
Pepe was only credited with 2 fouls on the night, but he was certainly not pulling out of challenges are failing to leave his studs near players' feet throughout. He got increasingly frustrated and even Marca, usually Madrid-biased, was unable holding back, saying "he was the worst of an unhinged Madrid. He brought shame on the whole game with two completely embarrassing actions [his dive against Fabregas and his stamp on Messi]. The worst part is that it's not for the first time."
Perhaps a lengthy ban will not solve the problem, but Pepe deserves to be handed several weeks' contemplation time. A lifetime ban is, of course, far too harsh and reactionary (and also not a serious suggestion I've heard), but if nothing takes place or if a paltry 1 match ban is handed down, the next time these teams meet, there will be more rancor and more hard kicks. By not clamping down on excessive force, the refs and by extension the Spanish FA (RFEF) are condoning it and helping to create a situation in which Pepe finds it acceptable to jab his cleats into an opponent's hand.
If it were possible to ban Pepe for all future clásicos, that might do the trick, but that is probably against the rules. Without any sort of ban, what happens next is someone getting seriously hurt by the next "impetuous" on field act, whoever the aggressor may be and whichever side he may play for. It is not a question of merely making an example out of Pepe, however, it is a question of upholding the rules of the game and the concept of sportsmanship. By all means, run up the score and celebrate goals as you wish, but physical violence should never be tolerated. That kind of sportsmanship, not lip service to the idea of sportsmanship.
As a repeat offender, Pepe should be banned for a minimum of 5 matches. Anything less is basically a joke. Yet any action at all is unlikely because referee Muñíz Fernández would be required to have made mention of the incident in his match report for RFEF to begin proceedings. Such a backwards system, where not seeing something is tantamount to it never having happened rather than using video, will do nothing but exacerbate an already explosive situation. There are at least 2 matches between the teams left this season (one in the cup and one in the league, both at the Camp Nou) and the threat of a Champions League meeting if both teams make it beyond the next round. With at least 180 minutes of football remaining, anything can happen, but hopefully next week's referee clamps down on violent tackles. And hopefully RFEF has the sense to ban Pepe.