Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho's ban for poking Barcelona counterpart Tito Vilanova in the eye last year was lifted Tuesday, clearing the way for the pair to meet at the Spanish Super Cup next month.
Mourinho had been banned for poking Vilanova in the eye during an on-field brawl at the end of a Super Cup match last year. Vilanova was suspended for one game for his retaliatory slap on Mourinho, but that was also overturned, allowing the new Barcelona coach to face the Portuguese in the Aug. 23 first leg at the Camp Nou. Madrid hosts the second leg at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium a week later.
Barcelona criticized the decision to lift Mourinho's ban after it was announced by Spanish federation president Angel Villar.
"This decision doesn't just convert the aggressor into the innocent party but also sends a signal that he can be permitted to continue using such aggression without risk of punishment," Barcelona spokesman Toni Freixa said. "This is a very bad example for football that this aggression goes unpunished."
Toward the end of Barcelona's 3-2 victory last year, Mourinho joined the on-field melee and poked Vilanova, then-assistant to coach Pep Guardiola, in the eye. Vilanova immediately slapped Mourinho on the side of the head, eliciting a smile from the Portuguese.
"We're not here to comment on Barcelona's decision, only to comment on the federation's," Madrid official Emilio Butragueno said. "There's nothing to this."
The Spanish Cup is between the league champion and the Copa del Rey winner. Barcelona won 5-4 on aggregate last year.