One great goal for Spain, one own-goal in Catalonia

8 Jul

Now imagine this.

Imagine, and I know it’s pretty unlikely, but try.

Just for one minute, try and imagine what would happen if England qualified for a World Cup final.

Especially after a less than brilliant series of matches sealed by some spectacular, if occasionally lucky goals.

After a semi-final against a powerful opponent who had possibly played better than anyone in the tournament so far.

A semi final in which EVERY SINGLE PLAYER pulled their weight, defending, assisting, passing and repeatedly shooting at goal.

There would, by rights, be dancing in the streets, singing, drinking, cheering and flag-waving. There would be a sense of unity and shared joy up and down the country, and the next day all the newspapers would have a big picture of the team or the goalscorers, maybe a Union Jack somewhere and a big headline saying YES! or FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME or IT’S 1966 ALL OVER AGAIN, and (in the case of the tabloids) several politically incorrect drubbings of the other team – especially if they happened to be Germany, Argentina or France.

But all the papers would have the beaming faces of Rooney, Lampard, Ashley Cole, Capello and the rest of ’em splashed all over the front page and the back page too, from The Guardian to the Daily Mail, from the Yorkshire Post to the Tooting and Mitcham Advertiser, regardless of political leanings. I would even wager that England players might even make the front pages of The Scotsman despite the fact that many Scotland fans had vowed to support any other team but England.

So, given the fact that Spain have just achieved such a feat, and have never made it past the quarter finals before in any World Cup, you’d expect the press to be united in their praise of the national team’s sterling effort, putting political and regional differences aside for once?

After all, Marca journalists did witness Spanish flags in the Plaza Canaletas – where Barça fans celebrate their teams victories – and people shouting “oa oa oa, Barcelona es española”, which did at one stage seem as likely as Maradona wearing an England shirt.

But then again, the goal that made the difference was from shaggy-haired warrior” Carles Puyol, Barça captain and genuine Catalan. Xavi, and Piqué are also Catalans and on the blaugrana payroll, while Capdevila was born in Lérida (or Lleida, if you must). Iniesta is a key Barça player, and if I’m not wrong Cesc Fabregas came to prominence in the Camp Nou youth teams. Pedro also played a key part in yesterday’s match, and he also has a few blue and red shirts hanging in his wardrobe back in BCN.

So really, much as many Madridistas (of which I count myself) may knock Barça – especially after Joan Laporta tried to use the club as a springboard to his dreams of a recession-proof future in nationalist politics (until the fraud squad get on to you.. or DEC/Salvame/La Noria etc, ask Julián Muñoz!) the truth is that many of Spain’s best players play there, and from next season that includes David Villa as well.

However, the old saw that there are “two Spains” (I’m not talking about the team that played Switzerland and the team that played Germany, I’m on a geopolitical tip here) is rearing its ugly head again. Even within Catalonia itself.

Take a look at the two editions of today’s Barcelona based newspaper El Periodico (great “cool” Barcelona minimalist name – it means “the newspaper”) below, the Spanish version on the left and the Catalan version on the right.

The Spanish version is headlined RED GLORY and boasts a huge photo of triumphant Carles Puyol just after his soon-to-be-legendary header.

The Catalan version DOES NOT EVEN MENTION the match at all, and opts to go for a story about Cuba planning to free some political prisoners, along with a picture of some politicians denying any links with corruption on the costas.

It’s as if the match never happened, a bit like what the papers were like in the times of Franco… if something happened that the rulers disapproved of then rather than report on it, albeit critically, it was just ignored and not mentioned. Check the date at the top of each paper.. a big eight, TODAY.

But to look at them you’d think the Catalan one was Wednesday’s.

Come on people, this is a great day, and if you want to use the excuse that a Catalan and a Barcelona stalwart has got a handful of Barcelona players and another handful of hangers-on into a World Cup final then go ahead. But maybe if you are really shortsighted enough to consider the likes of Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xavi Alonso as hangers-on then it could be that refereeing is the career option for you. We all love Puyol today. A credit to the nation. Whatever your concept of his nation is. Plus, in being a fan of Napalm Death, Cannibal Corpse and The Ramones (you’d never have guessed to look at him, would you), Puyol shows he has moderately better taste than the likes of (Saint) Iker Casillas who put the likes of Julio Iglesias and Manolo Escobar on his iTunes playlist. (Schweinsteiger had “Paper Planes” on his!)

Catalan sports papers like the imaginatively named Sport (Sport, El Periódico.. can you see a pattern here?) were full of praise for last night’s feat, coining the term PUYOLAZO into the bargain (you Google it!). So, “serious papers” (and what I believe people back in Blighty refer to as “haters“) in Catalonia, just get a grip and enjoy the party (and the partido on Sunday) and for God’s sake don’t line up some “Sorry Spain fails again” headline if by some unlucky chance Holland wins the match.

Then again, the Catalan Periódico did have some solace for football fans on its front page… a picture of our old friend Sara Carbonero.

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