F is for Fútbol

It’s here, the Eurocup is finally here. And “La Roja” is playing its first match today.

For a month, we can all look forward to some interesting news about Europe that have nothing to do with the incredibly gloomy, complicated economic situation. Spanish writer Javier Marías, in one of his recent articles defined the championship as a “very welcome opium”,  a dose of 90 minutes during which Europeans can get high on football and forget about everything else. (You can read his article in Spanish, here.)

We’ll see whether this is the case. What’s true is that two years ago, Spain won the World Cup and the whole country became united and proud. Here’s how I recall it in The A to Z of Spanish Culture, let’s see what happens this year, in Spain, or anywhere else.

F is for Fútbol

Some of the Spanish league teams are amongst the best in the world, there’s no doubt about it. Unfortunately, the Spanish national team was never glorious… until 2008, when they won the European cup. And then, they did it again in 2010, winning the World Cup.

La Roja

Football fever swept the nation. The goalkeeper, Iker Casillas was referred to as an “héroe nacional” (national hero) on Spanish morning TV shows. La Roja (“the red” squad – luckily the Socialists were in power then) became a symbol of the Spain everyone wanted to see: vivacious, vibrant and victorious.

The national flag began to fly again. No longer a symbol of fascism but of unity and success. The country re-conquered its flag and re-instated the pride in being Spanish.

The Spanish squad represented the country in all its glory: young guys, playing very clean football, persistent and gelling together on the pitch. To top it all up, when Andrés Iniesta scored a goal, his thoughts weren’t on the pitch but back with his friend and colleague Dani Jarque, who had died earlier that year from a heart attack. As he celebrated his goal, Iniesta lifted his shirt to show a white t-shirt underneath with the words “DANI JARQUE, SIEMPRE CON NOSOTROS.” (“Dani Jarque, always will be with us.”)

Unfortunately, Iniesta got sanctioned as the rules forbid removing your t-shirt on the pitch. Still, I’m sure the thrill of winning the world cup made up for that.

The beautiful Casillas, the goalkeeper, had been getting all sorts of unwanted attention from the Spanish press for being in a relationship with an equally beautiful reporter. Just after the match, said reporter interviewed Casillas, asking the usual question of “How does it feel to be king of the world?” Casillas, speechless, could not but express his elation through a full kiss to his girlfriend, on camera. The country cheered at this metaphorical middle finger at those who had said he was under-performing because his girlfriend was watching the matches in the stadiums. (You can watch this for yourself below.)

Against the backdrop of rising unemployment and political corruption left, right and centre, the 2010 World Cup flooded the country with a new wave of hope. The story of this victory had it all: honour, pride, respect, romance, emotion and even the knowledge that Nadal (who became world champion himself just a day later) had celebrated the victory with his fellow sportsmen.

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