First off – the image that will grace my header for the moment comes from a photo my dear friend Johanna took of La Roja doing their victory tour of Madrid.
If I had had a first born child, I might have sold it to be there. I was completely gutted to not be in Madrid.
The crowd was good, excited, and well-supplied with sangria. I donned my little Spanish flag as a headscarf. I wanted face paint but was running late and didn’t want to risk not getting a good spot. I met lovely, Spain-loving people, ate too much food, spent too much money and forgot my mobile phone at the bar (I have since gone to sheepishly recover it).
And yes, I cried. The sangria probably helped that along, but when Iniesta’s goal actually went in, like went IN! not deflected, not agonizingly close, not any of the other million scenarios that I was emotionally prepared for (or the possibility of penalties, god help us), I admit it, I got super emo. So happy, but also so sad not to be in Spain, not to be sharing in what will be, no doubt, the largest national partaaaay they’ve seen in a long time, maybe ever. I knew what it would mean to Spain right now, and felt overwhelmed not to share in it.
I can’t help thinking that Spain really really needed this right now. Several commentators have made the point that, what with the economy in tatters, unemployment ridiculously high, and morale generally a bit low, this was probably a much needed boon to the country that been hearing the great news that they’re gonna be the next Greece.
I also chatted online with a couple of friends about the sudden overwhelming visibility of flags among the Spaniards, many of whom have, since the days of Franco, been a bit wary of nationalist displays, not to mention the many subgroups like Catalans and Basques (of whom there are quite a few on the national team) who have had their own, conflicting, national ambitions.
And, right on time, I then came across this CNN article a friend posted on Facebook:
[The day after the victory, Spanish newspaper] El Pais declared: “Not since the Spanish civil war have there been so many flags in the streets.” Such has been the ubiquity of Spain’s flag it has been dubbed “The Red Effect” in honor of the national team’s exploits.
…”In Spain, we have a problem with national identity,” Abellan told CNN. “In some places in Spain, the Basque Country and Catalonia, above all others, it’s extremely difficult to see a Spanish flag or a national team game without there being problems.
“But in this World Cup, there were more Spanish flags than ever in places like Bilbao or Barcelona. Many of the players on the national team are Basque, like Xabi Alonso, or Catalan, like Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, and they were the first ones to stand up and talk of Spain.”
It’s hard to say if one sporting event will have a positive and lasting effect on something so complex as national identity, but I do at least hope it helps their economy. Also from CNN:
A Dutch academic study before the last tournament in Germany discovered that World Cup-winning countries have enjoyed positive economic growth following all but two finals, thanks to a mixture of increased confidence and heightened prestige. According to Ruben van Leeuwen and Charles Kalshoven’s 2006 study “Soccernomics,” that bounce can be worth an extra 0.7 percent of GDP.
But by far the most feel-good awwwwwww-inspiring moment HAD to be the interview Iker Casillas did with his girlfriend who just happens to be a television sports reporter right after coming off the field of victory. You don’t need to speak Spanish to understand: