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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old May 5th, 2006, 05:39 Thread Starter
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Spain Struggling To Find National Identity

Came accross this interesting article from Yahoo! Sports, it speaks of how Spain's national crisis is effecting the football atmosphere. I'm quite aware of the different regions of Spain considering that several centuries ago Portugal was once apart of the grand Iberia. It's just amazing how these regions have maintained their sense of individuality to all other neighboring ones for such a long time. Nations such as France, Germany, England, and Italy all went through the process of uniting the land and all pretty much are successful. However, Spain doesn't seem like it achieved this judging from this article. I've also put certain pieces in bold that I found quite interesting.
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Spain still struggling to find national identity
By Simon Baskett



MADRID, May 4 (Reuters) - Spain is a country obsessed with soccer known as "el deporte rey" or the king of sports.

Four of the best-selling daily papers are dedicated almost exclusively to the sport, it dominates the television schedules and provides the leading topic of conversation in every bar from Bilbao to Barcelona.



Yet despite the almost insatiable appetite for the game, the Spain side has never been able to inspire the sort of excitement, emotion and loyalty that national teams enjoy in other countries.

In England, Brazil and Argentina life comes to a virtual standstill during the World Cup, in Spain it continues pretty much as normal.

A game involving "la seleccion" generates only a fraction of the interest of the twice yearly "clasico" between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

So why are the Spanish unmoved by their national team?

Part of the explanation is to be found in the powerful regional divisions within the country.

Many of its inhabitants see themselves as Basque or Catalan or even Galician rather than Spanish and practically every region has its own representative team that plays at least one international friendly a year.

When Catalunya play, the Nou Camp is filled to the brim in an emotive display of nationalist sentiment and it is the same when the Basque select are on display at San Mames.

But the Spanish national team has not dared play at the Barcelona stadium since 1987 and last visited the Basque country 20 years before that. It would simply be too much like playing an away match.

POLITICAL BAGGAGE

It is hard to imagine another country where a debate could occur about whether or not a footballer might want to play for the national team because of his political views, but that is the case with Barca defender Oleguer, a self-professed Catalan nationalist.

The Spanish flag carries so much political baggage with it that Chelsea's Basque defender Asier del Horno was reported to be concerned about being photographed next to it when he won his first call-up for the national side.

It is perhaps a blessing in disguise that the present Spanish national anthem has no words as singing it would be fraught with danger for some players.

"Because there is no consensus over the nature of the Spanish state, there is no consensus over the national team," says El Pais sports correspondent Diego Torres.

"Spanish players are not as proud as other national team players when they pull on the national shirt and that pride is a fundamental ingredient in the success of any national side."

Regional divisions are inextricably linked to the unchallenged supremacy of club over country in Spain with both Barca and Real drawing far more interest than the national team,

"In all countries there are strong clubs, but here the clubs also represent powerful political interests and that is the key," says Torres.

"Barca, for example, is more than a club, it represents Catalan identity. This sometimes prevents players from integrating fully into the national side.

"In other countries players belong to clubs, but not to a region or a way of life as many do here. It is very difficult to confront this matter, however, as it is a taboo in Spain."

MEDIA OBSESSION

The media obsession with the big two sides means that whenever the national team gives a news conference questions are about club matters rather than the international clash.

There is uproar whenever a Spain game takes place in the same week as the two teams meet as it disrupts preparations for "el clasico".

The announcement of the Spain squad rarely makes the front pages of the sports press and even during the World Cup, speculation about future signings will often take precedence over the national team's fortunes.

But regional divisions alone do not explain everything. Failure on the international stage is the other key ingredient that has prevented the national team from inspiring real enthusiasm from amongst the country's football fans.

Victory in the 1964 European Championship and a runners-up spot in the same tournament 20 years later are the country's only two significant achievements, while they have not got past the quarter-finals of the World Cup since 1950.

A string of disappointments have eroded loyalty to the national side.

Fans and commentators talk of a quarter-final jinx and have even tried to find comfort in conspiracy theories in a bid to explain why one of the traditional powerhouses of European football has failed to make its mark at an international tournament.

Triumph at the World Cup would almost certainly break the shackles that have restricted the national side for so long.

"Success could be the catalyst for change," says Torres. "If Spain achieves something important it will infect the people and help create an identity for the national team. It will also affect the clubs as say it did in France or Italy.

"Spain and Italy are similar in many ways, but in Italy the success of the national team has made it a unifying factor, in Spain its failure has helped maintain the divisions."



Updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2006 9:00 pm EDT

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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old May 5th, 2006, 07:48
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From the Spanish NT forum:

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Originally Posted by Koeman4
I agree with part of the article, while I disagree with part of it. I think he forgets an essential argument. During 40 years, the NT was used to make propaganda of the "regime", making that big parts of the population didn't feel represented by the NT, because it actually was used against them. And I'm not just refering to nationalisms, but also to progressist people. Our only big title is a Euro won against the USSR and it was sold as the "victory of the national-catholic Spain against the red enemy". It doesn't happen just with the NT, but with symbols like the Spanish flag, which big sectors of the society don't see it as the symbol of their ideas.

Of course, all this goes down with the years, but back then, many people was more connected to the clubs because they truly represented their ideals, no matter if they were nationalist or just a sense of social class. And the clubs filled the gap that NT left empty and it remained this way through the years.

If you add that our clubs are the most successful around Europe, while we just have a middle-class NT, you have another reason. And the Spanish fans are this way. Okay, you can find exceptions, like in Athletic this year, or Atlético in their 2 years in Segunda. But the normal trend is that, when things go wrong, people give the back to the team. And the NT usually goes wrong. It's also a football culture, have anyone heard an English fan booing their own team? They always fill their stadiums and support the team no matter what happens, and they can criticize them, but they give their soul for them during the 90 minutes. In Spain... also in Italy, I guess that the latino character is different. If the players do well, we join the party. If they don't do well, we kill them. Look what happened to that ski girl who is winning everything. She failed in the OG and all the headlines: "Failure!". We're able to kill the same team that one year ago took us to heaven. See how the Celta fans wanted to kill their players when they got relegated. Or how the Atlético fans did the same in the same situation... when half of that team had made them won the "doblete" 3 years before!!!

The nationalisms are a cause of it. But not the only one. How do you explain that, in a Spain-Ecuador in the Calderķn (MADRID), there are more Ecuatorians than Spanish and the stadium is half empty? You might say that, in Madrid, they're used to big football every week, which could be part of the reason. But you can't forget that teams like France or England fill the Stade de France or Old Trafford any time they play, independently of the rival.

For one or other reason or all together, it's an unquestionable fact that the clubs are the priority of the Spanish people in Barcelona, in Bilbao... and in Madrid. And I'm not inventing anything, this was said even by Luis Aragonés, who's not suspicious at all.

I wouldn't do "pajas mentales" with it. We're what we are. Period.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old May 5th, 2006, 08:04
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Quote:
Originally Posted by O Glorioso
Came accross this interesting article from Yahoo! Sports, it speaks of how Spain's national crisis is effecting the football atmosphere. I'm quite aware of the different regions of Spain considering that several centuries ago Portugal was once apart of the grand Iberia. It's just amazing how these regions have maintained their sense of individuality to all other neighboring ones for such a long time. Nations such as France, Germany, England, and Italy all went through the process of uniting the land and all pretty much are successful. However, Spain doesn't seem like it achieved this judging from this article. I've also put certain pieces in bold that I found quite interesting.
It's hard to extend the political situation to the football NT, because this NT is affected by other factors, which are no related with the political situation.

About the nationalisms (not the NT). In the past, Spain dealt very bad with the different national identities that exist in the country. All these are the consequences of things that have happened in the last 300 years and the past repression on several zones of Spain.

There's still a debate about it. The right wing defends a (false) unity of Spain. While the left wing and the soft nationalism defends the "nation of nations" concept. Personally, I'm closer to this 2nd idea. For me, the best way to be "united" is to remark the differences we have, because Spain is very different from one place to the other. 4 different languages, different cultures and traditions... nationalities. I think that, in general, the population see this clearly. It's the right wing, which doesn't have a democratic background as in the rest of Europe, but fascist roots (from Franco's dictatorship), are the ones who heat the atmosphere about this topic.

I'm sorry for the right wing, but Catalunya, Euskadi and Galicia (even Andalucia at some point) are not just a "region". While they don't understand this, they'll never know what Spain is.... and still they want to appear as the saviours of the ONLY nation.

While they keep attacking the nature of the country, they'll keep choking. They lost the last elections, because the left crushed them in these "hot" zones, which had never been attacked so much since Franco's times. And for me, perfect. These neo-"fachas" can burn in hell.
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