The Gonzo Diplomat

Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

10 things we have learned from the first round of Euro 2012 games

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

The first batch of games have been played. Issues like peer pressure, stage fright, good runs, bad runs and niggling injuries have been dealt with, and, as expected, there have been a fair share of surprises. With two games for each team to continue their run in the Euros, what lessons have been learned from Stage one, Round one?

1. Form mean nothing: A valuable lesson that always gets forgotten. The media loves statistics and indulging themselves with banal information prior to a major championship, but once the ball starts rolling, there is no time to see who has scored the most headers in the qualifying rounds, who has the best pass percentage, or who hasn’t lost in the last three months. You can ask Holland to corraborate that. Their form prior to the Euros was formidable, their key striker Robin Van Persie, on fire, and their playmaker Wesley Sneijder under heavy criticism. So suprise, suprise, Holland lost their first game to Denmark, Van Persie was nowhere to be seen, and the best player for the Dutch was Sneijder.

France’s recent form also saw them start the game against England as clear favourites, as did same against Italy, who had come from a 3-0 friendly defeat to Russia. In the end, the favourites couldn’t take all three points against the weaker side, and in Spain’s case, it took a lot of suffering to scratch the draw, with a goal against a team who, in another reference to form, had only let in two goals in the qualifying rounds.

2. Possession means nothing: If form means nothing, neither does possession. The three culprits mentioned in the first point are also proof of this. Holland’s 29 shots, and control of possession was to no avail against an organised and efficient Danish side. Spain’s tiki-taka football was contrasted by an aggressive and well structured Italian eleven that also posed a serious threat to Casillas. Funnily enough, as the French paper L’Equipe criticised Spain’s tactics and inability to score without a striker, the following day they did the same thing against England, controlling possession and the fluidity of the game, but seeing all their efforts break up, with Nasri and Ribery colliding for a central role outside the area, and Benzema having to drop wide to create spaces, thus leaving the area without a striker. Possession gives you control of a game, but without efficiency and effectiveness, and that bit of lady luck, it cannot guarantee wins.

3. One must still respect one’s elders: A lot has been said about the new talents in Euro 2012, yet some of the more veteran players are playing important roles for their country’s. Some are being more representative, like Robbie Keane for Ireland, but Casillas, Pirlo, Buffon, Di Natale, Dennis Rommedahl, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and more importantly, the oldest of the lost, Andrei Schevchenko, whose brace gave the Ukraine three points against Sweden.

4. Ukraine and Sweden hosted the most entertaining game: Thusfar, all the hype about Spain, Germany, Holland and France, have seen how the smaller, supposedly less significant nations have put the best football. France and Spain played the best midfield play of the Euros so far, but their inefficiency when it comes to scoring has turned all their passing and flair into a dull show of frustration and sterile football. Nonetheless, Italy vs Spain was entertaining, but not as much as the Ukraine’s battle against Sweden, where the lack of renowned stars was replaced with real football.

5: Russia are back to business: After missing out on the World Cup, Russia are back to playing the great football they showed in the last European championships. Back then, only Spain’s possession football was able to meet them (and twice), but on their way they disposed of Sweden, Greece and Holland. This year, after a 3-0 trouncing of Italy, the team’s 4-1 demolition of the Czech Republic, with Dzagoev in excellent form, shows that they must not be taken lightly.

6. England are not as disorganised as you would expect: They may not be favourites, and they still aren’t. However, England’s game against France showed that they can stil hold on and fight through a tough football match. Regardless of this though, England were clearly the inferior side, and whilst we have seen that possession doesn’t win you games, lack of balls and creativity, and perhaps an excessive hope placed on Wayne Rooney will not make things any easier for the three lions.

7. Torres…oh suck: Yes, OK, the second Torres ran onto the pitch Spain’s football became dangerous and out Italy against the ropes, but was it Torres, or Navas opening wide that did the trick. With a striker, Spain found the spaces they needed to make Italy’s defence spread and run and Torres it great at finding spaces, the only problem is, he cannot score. His three chances against Buffon were blunders that a world class striker, especially one with 60 million, shouldn’t miss. His one on one with Buffon was the kind of angle that Ronaldo slots goals in frequently (such as Barcelona vs Real this season), and the final miss required a subtle chip that Raúl or Villa would have wished for. Yet Torres isn’t Villa, or Raul and it showed.

8. Germany quietly get the job done: Whilst Holland and Spain are being criticised, Italy praised, England judged and France too, the Ukraine are miracle winners, and the Russians are back in the limelight, Germany sit quietly, with three points, no goals conceded and waiting for their next rival. Their last game wasn’t the most convinving, but it was against a tricky Portuguese eleven, and it looks like this is just how they like it.

9. The grass may be greener, and will definifitely be dryer on the Spanish side: You cannot choose what kind of pitch you want to play in, it isn’t a given right you have. However, quicker pitches, wetter and shorter green carpets give better and more entertaining football that dry hay patches. The things is, many teams don’t want to play pretty football, they want to win games, and you can bet your bottom euro that Ireland, Croatia and whoever else may come, will prefer to play on long dry grass against the Spain, and will refuse to allow to wet the surface. Spain are not known for their physical ability, so the Irish and Croatians have a better chance of slugging it out against Spain will long balls and headers on a dry surface whilst the Spaniards struggle and stroll on long, arid surfaces.

10. People are going to get their heads bashed in: This isn’t football related, but it is repulsive and linked to the Euros. It has happened before, but the sights of thugs beating offices and fans in the head are hard to ignore. This time however, it isn’t the English, who people tend to pick out so quickly, but mainly eastern europeans, russians against ukranians who are giving a dire image to an important competition.

Bullfighting and Correbous: Hypocrisy in Catalonia

In Rant on October 7, 2011 at 9:33 pm

This Post was originally posted in my other blog, The Gonzo Diplomat.


When I was a child I remember my father having a framed picture of a bull in a ring. The colours were bold, sharp reds and yellows and the bull was in full movement ready to attack.  During the summertime, my great aunt would also spend hours sat in front of the television watching bullfights while fanning her face with the grace that only elders can muster. My impression upon watching the spectacle was that of sheer disapproval, as anybody who has grown up loving animals would feel. 

Years later I read Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and observed the profound respect the author had for bullfighters and for the so called sport. “Bullfighting”, he said, “is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter´s honour”. I seemed to understand his point, I recall, but I didn´t share his admiration. 

In the city of Alicante I refused to enter the bullfighting rings and despite having made friends, particularly in Valencia, who were very fond of the sport and who went to watch the spectacle during the Fallas feasts in March, I was determined to stick to my morals. 

From conversing with these friends I have learned to respect the cultural significance of bullfighting and those who love it, but I have been unable to find the pleasure or understanding of the sport and the senseless killing of an animal. Regardless of this, the spectacle has something that appeals to many, even those who do not appear to bear the typical fanaticism of many Spaniards. Maybe it is the fact that the bull still has a chance, that everone and everything dies sooner or later, and that the beast will make sure that its life is not taken easily and is willing to fight for it. Perhaps it is for that reason too that I find it perfectly fine when I see a bullfighter leaping with a horn up his bum, the price they have to pay for sticking spikes in animals and stylishly turning to the sounds of olé

However, the banning of Bullfighting in Catalonia, which held its last event ten days ago, where José Tomás and Serafín Marín fought in Barcelona’s main arena, La Monumental, seemed to be a great win for animal lovers and those tired of being associated with the bloodthirsty sport. Maybe the fanaticism is beginning to halt, I pondered, even though it may bear the price of sacrificing some cultural heritage. 

Then I heard that the beloved feast, the Correbous, would not be illegalised, as it was symbolic for Catalonia and as Andrés Martínez, the Security Administrator for Catalonia, argued, “the animals are not tortured”.


Correbous, a game where bulls chill out and play:

The correbous is a festive activity, in which a bull has balls of fire attached to its horns and is set in the streets panicking. Associations like the FAACE (Fight Against Animal Cruelty in Europe) have asserted that during these festivals, the bull can suffer a lot of distress and is often blinded by the flames or branded by the metal bars. 

There are a few things I detest more than bullfighting , one of them being the ignorant village folk who scream and shout and shake with excitement when there is a bull running down a street, in a blind frenzy and unable even to get his revenge and make those imbeciles teasing it pay for their arrogance. 

When in 2010, Joseph Rull, a spokesman for the centre-right nationalist coalition called Convergence and Union, stated that the ban on bullfighting was not an anti-Spanish manifestation, but a decision to adapt to a new society with new values, it all seemed pretty well said, even more so when he manifested that “the suffering and death of a living being cannot be turned into a public spectacle.”


It seems therefore, that either the suffering of an animal cannot be turned into a public spectacle if the beast dies in the act, but if it is just suffering and torture, then there is no problem whatsoever. 

Or maybe, just maybe, there are some political connotations to this ban, and in the end, the Catalonian government has done yet another thing I detest more than bullfighting, be hypocritical. 

If anything, Catalonia have always shown an ethical and highly moral behavior, and whilst there are rightfully demanding rights with regards to their culture and more importantly, their language, which is often mocked by Spanish centralists as being a mere dialect, the legalisation of the correbous has done little to their favour. 

In these modern times with, as Rull stated, new values, there should be no excuses for the correbous.  The Catalans, who have shown at times that they can be different to the Spaniards, can no longer blame Spanish uncultured habits for supporting a show where such little compassion is reflected.  When you see them running behind a tormented young bull, in a drunk stupor and thuggishly pulling its tail and throwing objects at it, there is no beauty, no art, no dignity or value, just cowardly retrograded traditions. And for every attempt to be separated from a Spanish country accustomed to animal brutality, where in a small town called Nalda, they used to tie chickens to a rope and try to decapitate them on horses, the Spain where, until the year 2000,  a goat used to be thrown every year from a church tower in Manganeses de la Polvorosa, Zamora, and dogs are usually treated like vermin, this event does little to show them as different to the culture they so often refute.