June 29, 2008


Spain revels in new spirit of unity as football team heals divisions: Since Franco's death in 1975 Spain has seen the growth of powerful nationalist movements. But, as they take on Germany in the Euro 2008 final, the old divisions are giving way to a new unity (Graham Keeley in Barcelona and Jason Burke, 6/29/08, The Observer)

This evening, from Corunna to Cartagena, from the Pyrenees to the Sierra Nevada, millions will be glued to the television, willing the 11 men wearing red and yellow to victory in the final of the 2008 European championships.

For citizens of most of the nations in this competition, the question of allegiance to the national side is relatively straightforward. The only people doubting the loyalty of France's immigrant population to Les Bleus were the racist right-wing. The Azzurri have had every Italian behind them. The Russians surfed a wave of pent-up patriotic fervour that led to their government organising a flow of tens of millions of pounds to the sport. Spain's opponents, the Germans, have become a much-needed symbol of the benefits of reunification and of a new, proud guilt-free sense of nation. But in Spain - and in the regions of Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia, which each have their own culture, language and fierce claims to autonomy - not everyone sees the match the same way.

When Spain beat Russia 3-0 in the semi-final last week, car horns blared, bars emptied, fireworks exploded. Nothing out of the usual in the Plaza Cibeles in downtown Madrid, but extraordinary in Barcelona, capital of the proud northeast region with its seven million inhabitants.

They won 1-0 and, in related news, you can sit on that bench now...the paint's dry.

Spain Takes European Soccer Title From Germany (BARRY WILNER, 6/29/08, Associated Press)

Big-game flops no more, Spain won the European Championship 1-0 over Germany today for its first major title in 44 years.

Fernando Torres scored in the 33rd minute and the Spaniards never backed down against such a formidable opponent. Their last significant title came in the 1964 Euros at home.

In beating a team that makes a habit of appearing in championship finals, the Spaniards put to rest a reputation for underachieving. Always loaded with talented players, Spain has spent four decades falling short of expectations.

That all changed at these Euros, where the Spaniards swept their first-round games, eliminated World Cup champion Italy in a penalty-kicks shootout in the quarterfinals, then routed Russia 3-0 in the semifinals.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at June 29, 2008 6:10 PM

Give 'em a break. At least they won it in regulation time. The typical Metric-football championship is decided by a goal-scoring derby after two hours of running in circles.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 29, 2008 7:56 PM

I was trying to find the Mets and Yankees earlier today and I turned on one of the major channels, possibly ABC, only to see them broadcasting a live American soccer game. Worse, there was no derogatory talk about the game itself and no sign that they considered the game to be a kind of comic relief. No, it was as if the network had some good reason to expect large numbers of people both to watch this and to enjoy it.

Somebody, please say something reassuring.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 29, 2008 10:26 PM

Matt: Strangely enough the "METS" game was on TBS (since they have decided showing almost every Braves game was a negative - something I don't disagree with but it is NL baseball on TV).

I remember being in Paris in 2000 when the French beat the Italians in the EuroFinal (I was in Amsterdam when the Italians beat the Dutch in the same week...but that's another story). I didn't attend the game(s) but the party in the streets when France won was wonderful!

Didn't watch either game... ; )

Posted by: Bartman at June 29, 2008 11:15 PM
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