Monday, July 12, 2010

And thus Spain wins, at last

Iker tearful break down
But it was not easy and the Dutch certainly showed that they were the worthier opponents of Spain in the whole joust.  But the Dutch lost their nerve, there was a rain of yellow cards with the expected red expulsion card, a la Zidane four years ago.  Great teams hold their nerves no matter what happens and that is why they tend to win.  Though at least one of the Spaniards, goal keeper Iker Casillas could not contain his emotion in the last minutes of the match when Spain finally scored and the merciless cameras could not get enough of him crying like a baby even though I could not find a better picture of the moment than the one I posted on the right.

Indeed I wonder how many people really weighed in the emotions that run in this final game of South Africa.  Many try to pretend that it is all about football only.  Might be true elsewhere, like in the European Cup, but there is always something extra that comes with a World cup that makes it so thrilling to watch even if the best technical football is what you see in the final European Club championships.  But at the World Cup no one escapes the cultural and historical baggage that tags along.

It was the ancient fight between Protestant Low Countries against the Spanish Inquisition and the bloody Duque de Alba sent by Philip II.  William of Orange was one of its leaders, or where else did you think the Orange of the oranje came from?  This is retained in the Dutch national anthem, least they forget where they do come from.  And yet today Spain as little to envy the Netherlands as far as human rights and social liberalism.

It was the choices of the locals, whether they could support the Netherlands when those ones where the ancestors of the Afrikaners, the engineers of apartheid.  And yet there enough local folks waving the Dutch flag remembering that modern Netherlands was one of the leading countries against the apartheid system, when a famous Dutch player dedicated on of his trophies to Nelson Mandela.

It was also the burden of separatism for Spain as the Catalans were protesting yesterday against Madrid, with some even announcing that they hoped that Spain would lose because it was unacceptable that the Catalans in the team would glorify a Spanish team, bemoaning that half the players of the Spanish team were from the Barsa.  Even poor Casillas, the team captain, from Castilla and the Real Madrid, tried to minimize it by making a lousy joke as to the "catalufas" eating at their separate table during the team's diner.  And yet as far as I can tell defender Piqué made a wall with Casillas against any pretension from the Dutch and no one in the Spanish team missed the celebration and the Cup surrender ceremony.  May that be a lesson to Barcelona.

To repeat such an historically loaded finale you would have to imagine, say, a Japan China final game played in the US as the host country for the Cup or a France Germany played in Rome.  But of course few people remember such things, such as your faithful blogger.  If the Dutch lost their nerve it was probably due to their reaching the finale for the third time, knowing that at home they would not be forgiven if once again they failed.  Such is the ingratitude of the fans, if you do not get what they want, they boo you even if reaching the one before last step is an exploit for what is after all a small country.  And such is the weight of football history, a burden worse than many a massacre or Inquisition.

Politicians are of course very aware of these things even if they run through the people at a subconscious level.  Thus you could see the Queen of Spain visiting the locker rooms of the Spanish team and kissing the players after their victory tonight, such as the picture of her kissing Iker Casillas.  After the semifinal victory over Germany, she even congratulated Puyol, a Catalan, as he was holding a towel around his waist.  No one kisses the Queen of Spain except her relatives, but tonight she was just another Spaniard, and an ecstatic one even if once upon a time she was Greek royalty.

royalty showing their colors
But when football comes knocking at your door, at a World cup, we all succumb to it and we all become passionate humans or plain humans.  After all this picture of the royalty at the honor benches in Johannesburg tonight shows the queen of Spain taking pictures like any Japanese tourist, the Dutch heir of the crown texting probably his mother in the Hague and the Spanish heir and princess looking around with great fun.  I suppose they all do potty duty too, if you forgive me the intentional vulgarity to nail the moment.

And thus finishes another edition of the World Cup, an exciting one that I am sorry I missed, lacking the mood for it, even lacking the mood to watch the final game in full with the attention it deserved.  Then again by the end of the first half it was clear that my prediction had to come true, Spain could not lose that game even if the Dutch were magnificent opponents.  This last picture of a van Persie action forcing Puyol to roll on the ground and Casillas to fly in the air tells you the tale.  Too bad, most of my predictions this edition would have come true and I would have won lots of money had I been betting.

Thus my final contribution to this 2010 cup could only be a nostalgic tour, where I admit me being envious of South Africa who could host so successfully such an event, envious of such a small country like the Netherlands can keep putting out bright generations of players (je maintiendrai, I shall persevere, is their motto), how the famously nervous Spaniards can produce such a steel tempered team and become the third country in history able to hold at the same time the Eurocup and the World cup (France and Germany are the only two other).  Nostalgic because here in Venezuela we keep falling back, we cannot build and fill up with dignity something like Soccer city, because we do not have the perseverance of the Dutch, because we do not have the will to overcome the alleged curse the Spanish suffered and yet overcame one by one, be it in football or politically.  Here in Venezuela we keep falling back while the world keeps advancing, even if unevenly, in politics, in human rights, in football.

PS: 38% of you guessed that Spain would win by 1.  Congratulation!


  1. Kolya4:59 AM

    Thanks for the post, Daniel. (And, hey, I'm one of those who got it right, Spain by 1. It was a common sense guess, that's why so many (38 percent) got it right.)

    Spain deserved to win the match. And I'm very very happy for Casillas, the team captain. And not only for Casillas, of course. I'm happy for the whole team. A bit sad for tenacious Netherlands, but the better team won

    Interesting note: Spain also won the Fair Play Award for having the cleanest record. May that be a lesson to all teams: you don't have to play dirty in order to win.

    And the Uruguayan Diego Forlan was awarded the Golden Boot, given to the best player of the tournament. A well deserved award. Forlan was amazing: as player, play maker and team captain.

    Despite all its faults, I love the World Cup. My favorite sporting event.

  2. I can say that Paul the Octopus and you were right!!!

    FURIA ROJJAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!

    (celebrating from Boston!!!)

  3. Paula

    Well, I am not celebrating. Nor would have I celebrated much more if the Netherlands had won. For once, really, truly, I would have been satisfied whoever won, though I had a slight bias for the Dutch knowing that the Spaniards would carry the day anyway.

  4. I was rooting for Spain this time. I think they deserved it.
    The Dutch were a hard nut to knack but they were playing too dirty, contrary to teams like the Germans in a similar situation.

    I also laughed at how people lose it completely: at the very moment Spain scored the cameraman showed Sofía jumping like crazy. Sofía visited half-naked young men on the previous game was also a funny moment.

    Castillas besando a la reportera, su novia: no, no, no, vamos a ti

    South Africa did a good job in organizing the event.

  5. I am happy Spain won 'cause my grandson wanted Spain, but sad 'cause my husband rooted for Netherlands.

    Overall it was a triumph for those who participated !!

  6. The Dutch football team are a disgusting bunch. You just can't expect to win a World Cup final by kicking the crap out of your opponents. Not with so many cameras anyway. The Dutch side looked to have been brought from a caimanera league in Soweto.

  7. Anonymous4:15 AM

    Got to love AB
    Spain almost made the same mistake as brasil they almost try to bet holand at their own game.

  8. Spain got the cleanest sheet of the tournament. Can Holland say the same? But don't take it from me, read what the inventor of Total Football said about his country's team.

    Fortunately the Dutch got what they deserved, in both counts: result-wise and public perception-wise.

  9. "Interesting note: Spain also won the Fair Play Award for having the cleanest record. May that be a lesson to all teams: you don't have to play dirty in order to win. "

    Err... there are more ways to play dirty than just clipping your opponents. Spain played smart Soccer. Once they saw Holland was going to play tenacious football they played for free kicks and cards. The commentators on the CBC pointed more than one instance where, during the tournament, Spain extracted many a free kick and two or three yellows from the opposing team on phantom fouls. Xavi and Iniesta in particular have been diving all tournament trying to fool the refs on more than one occasion.

    This is not particular to Spain, all teams do this to some degree or another but I scoff at the idea that Spain doesn't play "dirty". Whenever I hear that I point out how Iniesta, after being clipped, fell down in agony, moaning and whining (rightfully BTW he WAS fouled) but when he didn't get the call he immediately sprang to life, his injury 100% gone in 0 to 1 second and immediately clipped the dutch player. That's Spain's "clean" play, faking injuries. I'll point out the Spain had 5 yellow cards in this match which is more than the total for its entire tournament run up to that point (not to mention Puyol who should have had two yellows for arm wrestling Robben). This was a very physical game, high tension for both sides, lots of pressure. I was not surprised at the high card count.

    But I'm not saying Spain didn't deserve to win. ALL teams play dirty to some extent or another. That's why I find the whole uproar regarding tough dutch play to be so much hot air. They lost their nerve and Spain knew exactly how to take advantage of them. The better team won, but if the dutch had won it would have been just as deserving. And technically speaking they played better than the Germany that sat back and let Spain develop the midfield. Netherlands put pressure on the Spanish backfield to prevent that sort of thing (Spain did the same since they have the same style). That's another reason we had a low scoring game.


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