Front Page: All Of Spain Behind La Roja?

Two of the leading newspapers in the Catalan region of Spain splash huge crowds with flags flying across their front page: but there is not a World Cup referencing Spanish-flag to be found on the day of the World Cup final. Instead, both El Punt (the leading newspaper only published in the Catalan language) and La Vanguardia (Spain’s fourth most-read newspaper, mainly sold in Catalonia) devote their covers to the mass political protests in Barcelona yesterday. El Punt’s headline: The cry of a people.

Those protests saw a million-strong crowd show reaffirming the desire of the Catalan people for greater regional autonomy within Spain for Catalonia, and protesting a recent Spanish high court ruling that threatens to end its right to call itself a nation.

El Punt – Barcelona Edition, published in Barcelona, Spain. 11 July 2010.

Catalonia, Spain, Newspaper, World Cup finalLa Vanguardia, published in Barcelona, Spain. 11 July 2010.

Catalonia, World Cup final, Barcelona

These front page images in a soccer-mad region on the day Spain plays in its first-ever World Cup final tell a different story to that of a Spain united by football. Spain’s success at the World Cup, it is being said, has brought unprecedented displays of Spanish national pride to Catalonia or the Basque Country, as this Guardian article today argued:

Catalans and the Basques have been flying the flag for the Reds

They call it “the red effect”. It has spread down Spanish streets on the torsos of hundreds of thousands of fans wearing the shirt of the national soccer team, La Roja or “The Red”, and threatens to over-run even the most obdurately separatist corners of the country. On nights when the team notches up another World Cup victory it turns into a musical chant: “I am Spanish! Spanish! Spanish!” they shout joyfully. “I am Spanish! Spanish! Spanish!” [ . . ]

Such an outpouring of national pride also raises challenging questions about Spain’s vision of itself. This is a “nation of nations” according to some, who see Catalonia and the Basque country as unrecognised nations which, like Scotland, deserve their own football teams. Spain oppresses other nations, according to separatists, including to the Basque terror group Eta – which exacts its revenge in blood. The country’s constitutional court disagrees. “Our constitution recognises no nation but Spain,” it affirmed on Friday in a stern rebuke to Catalans who hoped a new autonomy statute might formally allow them to be known as a nation within Spain.

Thousands of Catalans marched through Barcelona’s streets denouncing the court’s decision to strike out parts of the statute. The march was led by the socialist head of the regional government, José Montilla, and his two predecessors. A massive flag bearing the red and yellow stripes of Catalonia, supposedly originally drawn on by the bloodied fingers of a warring Catalan count, preceded the procession.

But the march could not have been worse timed, according to Josep-Lluis Carod-Rovira, deputy leader of the Catalan regional government and a leader of the separatist Catalan Republican Left party. “This is ridiculous,” he complained. “We will end up with more Spanish flags being waved for the Spain-Holland match on Sunday than Catalan flags on the Saturday demonstration.”

Barcelona did not experience the same wild celebrations that provoked gridlock in parts of Madrid after the semi-final win against Germany on Wednesday, but Carod-Rovira is right that growing support for La Roja overshadows attempts to assert Catalonia’s “different” identity.

The pictures above on the covers of El Punt and La Vanguardia from Saturday’s demonstration suggest the importance of Spain’s World Cup success is being overplayed in that account, as we see waves of Catalan flags and nary a Spanish one, despite Carod-Rovira’s concern that “We will end up with more Spanish flags being waved for the Spain-Holland match on Sunday than Catalan flags on the Saturday demonstration.”  It appears politics surpassed the World Cup.

Despite this, a Málaga daily portrays Spain as playing today “for an entire country”. Perhaps for 90 minutes. . .

Málaga Hoy, published in Málaga, Spain. 11 July 2010.

El Roja, Spain

Images courtesy newseum.org. Any better translations from native speakers gratefully accepted!

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