La Roja’s victory in Euro 2012 a step towards unified Spain, away from Franco’s legacy

July 5, 2012

La Roja's victory in 2012 Euro is a step forward for Spain.

Not only is the La Roja’s Euro 2012 victory exciting for Spaniards, Jimmy Burns wrote in The Independent last Monday, it represents an important step towards healing the wounds of a bloody civil war, a brutal dictatorship, and a broken economy.  The politics of Spanish football (soccer for Americans), were an important political symbol during both the Spanish Civil War and during Franco’s regime:

The colour red is the colour usually worn by the national squad as long as most Spaniards can remember. But until relatively recently, politics seemed to get in the way of a broader acceptance of the word, like the Azzurri in Italy or Les Bleus in France. That is because during the Spanish Civil War, the colour took on a political identity. To be a Rojo was to be a communist and anti-Franco.

The perception stuck during the Franco years when football was manipulated for propaganda purposes by a fascist regime that contaminated and distorted the nature of Spanish nationhood. Franco favoured and promoted a virile and aggressive style of play known as the Furia Espanola (Spanish Fury), which became part of the regime’s militaristic nomenclature.

This politicization of football led to its decentralization.  Catalan and Basques teams quickly formed to challenge Madrid, a physical expression of their political dissent.  The reintroduction of red as the national color and the new focus on skill instead of aggression represents an attempt to enter a new era in Spanish football and politics.

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