Wednesday 14 July 2010

Spain won, Rest of the World didn't

The World Cup wrapped in the Spanish flag (El País)

Two years ago, after Spain had won the European Nations' Cup, I wondered, in an Iberian Studies forum, whether this victory could tell us anything about Spanish society today. None of my expert colleagues responded at the time.
Why are the Spanish footballers suddenly better than everyone else? Why aren't they the ineffectual losers they always have been? And has their success done anything to strengthen a sense of Spanish national identity?
Now after the World Cup victory this weekend, everyone seems to be asking the same questions. Amongst the responses seen today, The Guardian has a thoughtful editorial, followed by some fascinating readers' comments, from a wide variety of perspectives:
- Victory on the football pitch might encourage unity but the economic crisis is more likely to hold the country together

And there's a comment piece from Miguel-Anxo Murado:
- Does Andrés Iniesta's World Cup-winning goal for Spain have a deeper significance, or was it just down to good play?
This has also drawn a stack of interesting responses, including this one which sees the success of the Spanish team as a "very beautiful metaphor that contrasts very graphically with the current political situation in Spain."

But it's not only football. Spain is on a run of success in a number of major sports. Rafael Nadal has won 2 of the last 3 Wimbledon finals, Spanish cyclists have won the last 4 Tours de France (and are not doing badly in the current edition), their men's Basketball team are  European Champions and got to the final at the last Olympics. I have the impression - though I'm not sure how this can be checked - that there is far wider participation in these sports in Spain than there is in (for instance) the UK.

So, does all this tell us anything worth knowing about contemporary Spain? And how can it be explained? Is it something in the genes? The culture?? The diet??? And doesn't all that red and yellow make a nice splash?

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