Will World Cup Victory Unify Catalunya and Spain?
Before I begin, I must admit I have never been much of a futbol fan. I am American, and like most, it seemed like a very sleepy sport...until that is, I went to my first game March 2009. F.C Barcelona vs. Malaga. WOW! I was hooked! It was nothing like what I felt watching it on the boob tube back in the states. We had seats right behind the goal, and I was sucked into the hype and beauty of the sport. In this short time, I have learned the dedication and years players stay with their club... the loyalty. This is very UNLIKE certain sports like the NFL today. In my youth, I enjoyed watching games with my father. It was a time when players stuck with their teams. Now, they are traded at the snap of a ball, and selfishness and greed replace loyalty.
Spain's nationalist-minded Catalonia region has never had the same reverence for the Spanish national team as the rest of the country. I do not want to be the American that comes and just in a short time, passes judgment on a culture that I am just learning about. This is all just my opinion. Our experiences are our truths. Since my first game, I have married a Catalan...and have moved to Spain. Its been an amazing futbol journey ending with F.C Barcelona vs. Holland battling in the final game. (oops, I mean Spain vs. Holland match). The Spanish national team "La Furia Roja" (the Red Fury) was mostly made up "La Blaugrana" (the blue and red, as Barcelona is known) La Roja relied on 7 of 11 players who are part of the prestigious F.C.Barcelona...and by the end of this victorious night 6 of them were Catalan. (Ok, ok...Big Kudos to Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas)
F.C Barcelonas' (the ABSOLUTE heart of Catalunya) success has been built on its extensive youth development program. Its very style of play and the training techniques have been duplicated from the senior club to its national team. Barcelona dominates opponents by controlling the ball and and stringing together intricate passing sequences. That requires precision, patience and an instinctive understanding between the players...alongside the influence of FCB coach Guardiolas' radical transformation and reformation of the club has been absolutely amazing. It is this same style that helped Barcelona win four Spanish championships in the past six seasons, and two UEFA Champions League titles, in 2006 and 2009. It is the same approach that helped Spain win the 2008 European championship, and now the same one that has given Spain its first World Cup victory.
So here begins the conflict...
My husband is Catalan, and is one of many that wants no part of "La Furia Roja." I read some time ago, they were to leaving behind the barbaric notion of "la furia". This was a very racial and Franco-era concept of futbol based on character rather than ability. However, I have seen it popping up again lately, and find it very curious. Ok, back to topic. Many Catalanes are feeling bitter that Catalunya is not able to represent themselves in the World Cup. They do not feel a part of Spain, there is a deep rooted sense of nationalism that has a very long history. A Spanish flag in these parts on your car, or on your balcony, is a right wing fascist symbol...haunting memories from the dictatorship of Franco. According to many...this goes way beyond that dark past as well.
Since the World Cup final has ended, I have been reading many reports and stories telling that Catalonian cities are welcoming the Spanish flag. I suppose so, but WHO are these people? During my personal experience walking the streets of Las Ramblas (Barcelona) wed. night after the German match, I saw many tourists and OBVIOUS foreigners getting caught up in the history being made. (me included) Many, do not understand the sensitive political complexities that are going on. After the final game Sunday night, I walked around Girona. (another Catalonian city, alone of course...my hubby wouldn't join) There was really NOT a lot action! I expected drums, fireworks, dancing and absolute mayhem. Instead, I observed a slew of younger kids, a few scattered families, few corners of maybe 1-2 beating on pots and pans, and bands of cars hooting and hollering down a few major streets... and that's about it. The day after the game, I saw VERY FEW sporting La Roja. Its was nothing like you would expect following a historical World Cup victory!!
There are certainly a few Catalan extremists who wanted Spain to lose...I am not speaking about THAT minority. I do NOT sense any REAL hate for Spain. I sense a majority whom like my husband, his friends, and family are missing ANY kind of identity with Spain. They, like many, watched the games, showed support, and were very proud for "La Blaugrana." Incidentally, if you go to a Barça game in Camp Nou in Barcelona, you will never see ONE Spanish flag! As I go for a jog here in Olot (about 1 hour outside of Barcelona), or look out my window right now, I see NO Spanish flags.
The Catalans have struggled for years for independence from Spain.
Saturday, just 1 day before the final historic match, more than 1 MILLION 1/2 people demonstrated in Barcelona against a judicial decision to reduce the powers of the Catalan parliament. That's a lot people, and certainly does not feel like a more unified relationship between Catalunya and Spain. These are people that feel that Spain does not understand their language, culture, or their traditions. More importantly, Catalunya is very industrial and prosperous, and don't want their hard earned money squandered by the government in Madrid. I am from Texas, this sort of reminds me of our silly little governor and his ABSURD idea of Texas separating from the rest of the states. ALMOST. However, the only difference being this is a bona fide struggle, and one that has been a serious force since 1876.
Experiencing the excitement of this recent victory has been exhilarating! I feel certain a delicate balance will be achieved in time between Catalunya and Spain. Can the first Spanish World Cup victory achieve what no politician has been able to do for decades, if not centuries? Good question. I doubt it, though. I believe Catalunya should take ALL the good that may come about as a result of this World cup win, because for too many years they have shared the bad. Rest assured..with no doubt, the true heroes of this historic victory will ALWAYS be remembered.
In addition, I believe in democracy. It is easy to organize a referendum and ask the people what they want to be. If people choose whether to keep things as they are, or go on their own, so be it. I see no hostility or violence. The Catalanes are a peaceful folk, and extremely persevering..they will prevail.
History is gently unfolding, and I am excited to be witnessing it!
Visça Barça! Visça Catalunya!