Saturday, March 28, 2009

Football's Identity Matters

The article you are about to read was published at and it tip-toes around the fact that the inhabitants of Euskal Herria and Catalunya (two out of the three abducted nations by Spanish colonialism) do not feel Spanish and therefore do not support Spain's national football team. Here you have it:

World Cup Debate: Spain - Divided, But Still Successful takes a look at that land of many cultures - Spain - and the status of the national team...

It's a rare country that has everyone within its borders cheering for national team success. Virtually everywhere on earth you will find ex-pats, immigrants, and the children of immigrants - sitting quietly at home while the majority are out watching the national team compete in the World Cup.

What's more, in quite a few you will even find native-born citizens, stretching back generations, who are not the least bit interested in the fortunes of the national side. Perhaps nowhere in Europe is this more true than in Spain.

A House Divided

The Spanish football roadshow - easily one of Europe's more mobile national teams - seems to cover a heck of a lot of ground, but this is deceptive. The vast, vast majority of the matches are played in the various pro-Spain heartlands of Castile and Leon, Castile-La Mancha, Andalucia, Asturias, Extremadura, and even Galicia and Murcia. Valencia is well-resented, too, while La Rioja, Navarre, Aragon and the Canaries are also visited. But Catalonia? The Basque Country? No.

There are parts of Spain, then, in which the national side simply is not relevant. Catalonia is the first example: sure, there are Spain fans there, but not many, borne out by the fact that the Furia Roja have not played there since 2000. (To give some context, Spain have in the meantime visited such footballing hotbeds as Vila-Real, Elche, Logrono, and Leon.)

More amazingly, the last time Spain hosted international opposition in Bilbao was in 1967 - at the height of Francoism, in other words - and San Sebastian/Donostia in 1923. Have they any immediate plan to return? Why would they? The attendance would probably be low and the outcry massive.

Flying The Flag

Yet despite the groundswell of opposition at grassroots level, when it comes to professional football, Spanish recognition remains the big prize. Proud Catalans such as Xavi and Bojan without hesitation - and without moderation - play for Spain as readily as they would their clubs. So fulsome were Xavi's efforts last summer, in fact, that he was named Euro 2008's Player of the Tournament.

That's not to say that there cannot be tensions. This current squad is undoubtedly one blessed with camaraderie and spirit, but previous coaches have not quite managed the same. Just look at Javier Clemente. He was accused by Marca, among others, of having a bias towards his beloved Athletic Bilbao, and selecting players who had 'a couple of half-decent games' for the San Mames outfit. Later, Luis Aragones weathered the same controversy for his Atletico Madrid predilection, but in Clemente's case there was, sadly, an ethnic undertone to both his (alleged) policy and some of his critics.

In other words, it's a minefield, and specifically so in the Basque country. This video, courtesy of Carlsberg and, featuring football writer Phil Ball, may explain more.



What they do not point out is that unlike England that allows for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to play in international tournaments, Spain will not even allow Euskal Herria, Catalunya and Galiza to do the same which once again proves that those who call the shots in Madrid have little regard for the right to self determination of all nations in the world.

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