Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A sweet, sweet moment in Spain

David Seaton's News Links

Today Spain is still one large hangover after the victory celebrations.

After 44 years, the country with the world's best soccer league finally won a major tournament: the European Nation's Cup.

But the best thing about it, and what Spaniards are happiest about was the way it was won, their national team's style of play.

Today's Spain plays a type of collective "all for one and one for all" football that is based on keeping possession of the ball, of moving it in intricate patterns until the opposing team is off balance and then striking. This requires enormous ball handling skills and vision of the game.

This is the natural form of Spanish play as Spanish footballers, in general, are shorter, slower and of lighter build than most of the other major soccer powers. However they have only started to play like this in recent years.

An old Spanish communist, a veteran of the civil war, who had returned to Spain from exile in Mexico during the 1980s, told me an interesting story once.

He said that in the days of the Spanish Republic, Spain played elegant, classy soccer but since most of the players and coaches were of working class origin (soccer is a working class game) and were naturally people of the left, when Franco won, they were all dead, in prison, or in exile.

Consequently at the end of the civil war there were almost no good trainers or skillful players around to teach the basic skills. Remember that there were none of the videos, which today allow little Swedish children to try their luck practicing Brazilian esoterica like the folha seca. In the 40s and 50s of the last century, if you couldn't actually see it in person, you simply couldn't learn it.

In answer to this the Franco regime invented the myth of the "furía española" a hotblooded fury that would carry all before it. Playing wildly, without skill became a symbol of hairy chested, fascist, machismo... and losing became a national pass time.

Because to be
shorter, slower and lighter of build than most of the other major soccer powers, and skill-less to boot ... and then, also to be "furious" is a sure recipe for disaster... and so it was.

So you can see that to finally recover Spain's old playing style has even a certain political significance. This explains Spanish Prime Minister, Zapatero's statement that winning the European National Football Championship, was the "end of the transition".

Thus, in this era of "Iron Men" and "Hulks" and "X-Men", nitzchean "super men" with super powers, an era of Nike, of Beckhams and Ronaldos, in days like these, a group of stubby, "boys next door", who when they get the ball, you never see it again until it is in your goal net: these smaller, lighter and slower young men have just skillfully won one of world sport's greatest prizes and may win a good deal more of them. DS


Mark said...

Bravo! Beautiful post. Thank you. I've found the recent gossip-peddling a bit sad.

stunted said...

When sports does drift into political expression as well, it is at its most poignant. Football in Europe is way ahead of the politicians, at least in this tournament, in its inclusion of Turkey in the European Cup, and the tounament was rewarded with a riveting Turkey-Czech Republic match.

I was holding out for an Iberian peninsula final for a game of fluid ball-handling. The hype and money aside, Ronalhdo is a terrific player.

Anonymous said...

The Euro championships is _the_ most relevant football tournament. Seeing Spain win is really a little bit of recompensation for the ghastly and destructive Italian team at the World cup..

anatol said...

Very beautiful theory. Too bad its not supported by the facts.
44 years ago Spain won the European championship final in Madrid with Franco present, playing beautiful technical football (yes, I saw that game on TV - I'm that old).

In 1978 Argentina won the World Cup with beautiful play while the country has been ruled by a fascist junta. And in 1934 and 1938 Mussolini's Italy won the World Cup too (no, I haven't seen those two finals).

Anyway, congratulations to Spain - the team playing the best football won, which doesn't happen every time.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Mussolini literally stole those World Cups! And Argentina never had a civil war like Spain's with an "Albanian" post war of hunger and isolation.

As to the final in Madrid against the USSR, with Franco present....

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I have a little more time to answer.
When the Hungarian player Kubala arrived in Spain fleeing from the Hungarian troubles of 1956, there was nobody in Spain that still knew how to put "english" on a free kick. People hallucinated when the ball curved around the barrier and into the net.

But it was really Johan Cruyff taking over Barcelona's football program including the children's football that created the present passing-control game. Without Cruyff, Aragones would never have had Xavi, Cesc and Iniesta to work with.

Anonymous said...

.. world's best soccer league ..

no way ! :)
it was good tournie by and large . i am really glad that beautiful football won for a change . in contrast just see what dunga is doing to brazil < sigh > .
i caught some via free internet channels ( of not so good quality ) .