Nationalism, regionalism and Spanish football

The Independent has an interesting article today entitled ‘Why will a quarter of Spain be supporting England tonight?’ (for those of you who aren’t aware, there’s an international football friendly tonight between Spain and England in Madrid) which looks at how the Spanish national football team is not supported by many of the people of Spain because of the strong currents of regionalism and nationalism.

In so far as Catalans will be taking an interest in tonight’s Spain v England game in Madrid, they will be – most of them – supporting England. Should England score, the whole city will know about it. It happens every time, just as it does when Bar?a score a goal: in every neighbourhood there will be someone guaranteed to set off a celebratory firework or two.

Now, admittedly, things could get a little complicated this time around. What if Owen or Beckham score for England? The spontaneous reaction will be jubilation, but a moment’s reflection will yield the alarming truth that they play for the most detested enemy of them all, Real Madrid.

At which point the mental systems of Catalan football fans everywhere may dangerously short-circuit. Or not. Love for England may momentarily trump loathing for Spain. Whatever the case, it will yield an interesting new twist on the complex tribal impulses that animate the otherwise sane and impressively civilised Catalan people.

The Catalans are not alone. The Basques are at least as zealous in their desire that the Spanish football team be beaten. And as far as tonight’s game is concerned, because they haven’t got as much of a thing about Real Madrid as the Catalans do, they’ll be cheering on Beckham and Owen with as much abandon as the rest of the England team.

There are other, smaller nationalist enclaves in Spain where they’ll be rooting for England too. A number will in Galicia, in the Celtic-rooted north-west (they play the bagpipes out there, the fields are green and they look Irish); some diehards will in the Valencia region; and the Balearic islanders (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza) will be happy for the most part to see perfidious Espa?a defeated.

Update: Unfortunately, the match was marred by some pretty despicable racist chanting from an element of the Spanish fans – see this discussion on Crooked Timber for more.

7 thoughts on “Nationalism, regionalism and Spanish football

  1. I rather wonder how large a part of Great Britain will be rooting for Spain rather than England.

    “…natural enemies, like Englishmen and Scots, or Welshmen and Scots, or Japanese and Scots, or Scots and other Scots. Damn Scots! They ruined Scotland!”
    — Groundskeeper Willie

  2. I think it is a pretty sad state of affairs that there is a large proportion of Great Britain who would root for Spain ahead of England. Draws interesting points about modern nationalism though…

  3. That is true, but it was England, as opposed to Great Britain or the United Kingdom (neither of which exist in terms of international football, of course), who were playing tonight so the comparison isn’t strictly accurate. I would doubt – though no doubt someone will now come along to prove me wrong – that there were any significant number of English (as opposed to British) people wanting Spain to win tonight.

  4. I’m pretty sure you’d be right on that. This does invite an interesting question – if Spain was broken up into Basques, Catalans, etc, would the Castilians be more successful than they are now?

  5. More to the point, a nice segment of the Spanish football crowd chose to root against the black race… so European …

    Sorry, this is my repartee to two European golfers, Luke Donald and Paul Casey, who think americans are stupid and uneducated; somehow these two think that americans who have travelled 31 states, 3 Canadian provinces and Mexico is less than travelling through 12 European States and Morrocco…or that knowing where the Ozark mountain range, the Colorado River, or Great Slave Lake is located.. is less important than knowing the location of geographic salients in Europe.

    I am a transplanted Canadian (Toronto, Ottawa) living in blue collar and hardly enlightened Jacksonville, Florida…but blacks and whites mingle very freely inside and outside the stadium …and trust me, this is not an economically or socially advanced crowd..but I guess I would take it over the populace in a typical European city.

  6. Craig, I agree with you. The anti-Americanism of Europe has very little grounding in reality and is nothing short of crude and offensive in many cases. It was a disgrace to hear the racist chanting last night and it brings shame on the whole of Spain. They’d be up in arms if the English players were to call the Spanish players spicks derisively.

  7. Football fans in Spain have been a fascist recruiting ground for years. The more fascist a youngster, usually, the more he will ressort to racist slogans and attitude. And there are few thing that set them up than football with the Spanish selection. As for ther slurs, they are tipical of right wingers “discourse”, like “islamo-fascist”, “anti-American”, “EUrines” and so many others I can’t list. The finality is to “shock and awe”, to get and emotional response that they reckon will disturb their adversary abilities. What was saying that marine that killed an injured and unarmed Iraqi? I’ve heard that in US tv the words were censored, however they let the shot to be heard, it is so nice to hear the sound that brings death!


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