The story of Spain in and beyond the headlines

13 07 2010

Spain it is, and on the balance of how football’s World Cup was played, despite losing their opening encounter with the Swiss, Spain were certainly worthy winners. Although the final match against the Netherlands proved to be less entertaining than one would have expected between a polished Spanish team and the once masters of total football, the Oranje, the match did provide the excitement at the end, and some controversy too, the magnificent finish of Barça’s Andres Iniesta coming with an attack launched right after English referee Howard Webb missed a Spanish deflection on a Dutch free kick denying the Oranje a corner. This controversy and that the match was marred by what was seen to be roughhouse tactics employed by the Oranje to try to break Spanish control over the ball resulting in 13 yellow cards being brandished by Webb, 8 to the Netherlands and 5 to Spain, with Oranje Johnny Heitinga being shown a second yellow and hence a red, would probably dominate the news in many newspapers. But that really shouldn’t, and for most part, glancing at the front pages of the newspapers around the world, it is good to know that it hasn’t. I always enjoy glancing at the front pages after an event to grasp a sense of the mood of a nation in response to the event and in Spain of course, the newspapers would be splashed with the joy of a nation tasting World Cup success for the very first time, after years of misery and under-achievement. There is a story of Spain that perhaps the newspapers should really tell, not one of the narrow but sweet victory over a determined Dutch side, or the kung-fu kick Nigel de Jong landed on Xabi Alonso that Eric Cantona would have certainly been proud of, but one of unity in diversity.

The front pages of newspapers often provide an insight into the mood of a nation. "Reyes del mundo" or "Kings of the world" reads the La Vanguardia the morning after Spain's victory over the Netherlands.

Spain is indeed as diverse as nations go. The make-up of the national team itself is a reflection of that. With players made up of proud and independent thinking Catalunya, those from the Castillian heart of Spain, the far flung and rough Basque country, and even the Canary Islands, each with an outlook and identity as distinct as the landscapes are as you move from one region of Spain to another. What was on show during the World Cup was the unity the diverse members displayed as a team, combining into an unstoppable force that was able to overcome a German team that looked to be on its way to win the cup having demolished the fancied English and Argentinian teams putting four goals past each of them. It is from Spain that we see that the power of the team can defeat the teams where the focus held dwelt on individuals. So, where the Ronaldos, Rooneys and Messis flopped, what can be seen beyond the headlines is the triumph of teamwork and team spirit in the superb Spanish show during the World Cup.

"Lost"... The mood of the Netherlands summed up in the front page of Het Parool.

Elsewhere, in Netherlands, as one would have expected, the headlines on the front pages reflected a different mood, one of despair at their fall final hurdle for the third time in the quest for football’s ultimate reward. In Germany, with the exit of the national team at the hands of the Spanish in the semi-finals, the news was conspicuously absent from the front pages of the main broadsheets, and in the UK, the Times leads with the graphic image of Nigel de Jong executing the kung-fu style kick on Xabi Alonso, giving the game an appearance of a kick-boxing match, and a game which was difficult to officiate, drawing attention to the only thing England could contribute to the final, referee Howard Webb’s performance. Regional newspapers also tell a story,

Conspicuously missing from the headlines of the German broadsheets, news of the Spanish triumph over the Netherlands.

The Times leads with a very graphic image of Nigel de Jong's king-fu style kick, providing a negative impression of the game and bring attention to Howard Webb's performance in handling what would be seen to be a difficult game.

The pride of Catalunya, Carles Puyol on the front page of a regional newspaper from Catalunya.





A new day begins

11 07 2010

A new day begins today, marked by a stunning sunrise which I was able to catch on a morning drive. A new day certainly for the World Cup where two teams, Netherlands and Spain, would be meeting in the final to decide who would be the champions of the world for the next four years, both of which have never won what must be the sporting event of all sporting events. For the Spanish, it is a new experience having faltered at the quarter finals on many occasions, with which prompted many to lable them as the sport’s greatest underachievers. This time around, the team features what must be a golden generation of Spanish football, with some of the best talents in the game. Having overcome the mental stumbling block that they have long carried, having tasted success at the European Championships tow years ago, they will approach the game with confidence, having also disposed what must be the team that surprised and impressed many, Germany, who displayed a flair and brand of football not seen in a German team for a long time.

A new day begins with a glorious sunrise.

For the Netherlands, this would be their third final, having lost two back-to-back finals in the 1970s, when led by the prolific Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens, they played a flowing and exciting brand of football which lit the 1974 and 1978 World Cups up. I remember the 1974 World Cup particularly well as it was the first World Cup that I was aware enough to appreciate, and the spectacle that the final, shown live and in colour in Singapore (it was the first match to be telecast in colour in Singapore in the year that colour television was introduced to Singapore). The pulsating final in 1974 pitted hosts West Germany, featuring “Der Bomber” Gerd Müller, against the total football of the Netherlands, in which the Germans triumphed 2-1 despite going down to a first minute penalty. Many would probably have been hoping for a possible repeat for that final this time around, with perhaps the Germans displaying the flowing brand of football that was the hallmark of the Dutch team of the 1970s. But alas, the octopus did seem to have other ideas.

Decked with colours similar to that of the House of Orange. Should we be looking to the skies rather than at a mollusc?

Whatever it is, the final should be an interesting one, in which the general feeling is that the efficient passing and controlled game that Spain plays would win it for them, a result that Paul the octopus does not dispute. The Dutch themselves are no pushovers, and displaying the kind of efficiency and industry that perhaps is less of what one might expect from a team decked in the brilliant oranje of the House of Orange, an industry the perhaps is epitomised by the work rate of Dirk Kuyt when he plays for both his club side as well as in the National team. My heart is with Spain on this one, although I also enjoy watching the Dutch. However, I have got a strange feeling on this one … maybe the golden orange hues of the sunrise that greeted me this morning is a sign and that logic tells me that the law of averages should really be starting to make a dent on the record of the octopus. Whether that feeling is correct however, I wouldn’t my money on it. Whatever it is, we would very soon know when the match ends in the wee hours of the morning (in Singapore).