Home > context, International > Spain winning the World Cup: “Once in a life time…”

Spain winning the World Cup: “Once in a life time…”

By Laura Tejero Tabernero, an ERI Partner in Madrid

I’ve never really been a football fan but I cannot be more amazed with all that’s happening with Spain winning the World Cup for the first time in its history. I have never seen so many people so collectively happy! Everybody saying, teenagers and elders alike, “This is just once in a life time…, the happiest day for Spain in decades…”

And I wonder for myself, how is this possible? What’s the real social power of football in contemporary societies? It seems to be much more than just pure leisure; much more than a simple competition; much more than just pure business.

Yesterday there was a huge party all around Madrid, a welcoming party for the team players organised by the government. It was one of the biggest concentrations of people in the entire contemporary history of the country, hundreds of thousands of people partying in the streets, all dressed with red shirts. Spanish flags all over the city, everybody waving the national symbols, feeling (or at least pretending to feel) united.

It is just something nobody could expect. Yesterday it seemed like there weren’t any kind of social distances, any kind of regional nationalisms. It was the first time you could here people from all different political ideologies, immigrants who are structural and politically marginalised, screaming out loud: Viva España!

Viva España, one of the most common expressions associated with our own historical past, with Franco’s dictatorship, with a kind of nationalism that is being constantly disapproved by an enormous amount of people who still feel the necessity to fight against fascism.

But, two days after the finals, we came back to real life again. We came back to our one political and economical situation. Nowadays Spain is one of the European countries where the current crisis has had its more perverse social effects, where unemployment rates are the highest and where the political system has lost most of its social legitimization. But it seemed that, at least for two days, this was something people could forget about. It seemed as if people could, once again, feel proud of their country.

But what about the way in which the government has strategically used this fleeting social amnesia? It is not a coincidence that the government decided to make public the new labour market reform the same day in which the Spanish team made its debut in the World Cup. It is not a coincidence the enormous amount of money invested in this victory.

And I ask myself again, what’s the real social power of football in contemporary societies? How can we feel proud of a country that it is being socially devastated? Maybe we, as anthropologist, should start asking people what football really means to them so as to know more deeply the social implications it has. It seems to be much more than just football, more than just mere business….

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Categories: context, International
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