(By Paul Morrissey – follow on Twitter here.)
‘Yo soy espanol espanol, Yo soy espanol espanol espanol” (Sergio Ramos, Cibeldes, July 2nd, celebrating La Roja’s Euro 2012 homecoming)
The nationalistic bombast uttered by El Indio de La Roja at the Plaza de Cibeles would have been unfathomable until very recently.
Until recently, the players would rock up to squad meetings in flip-flops, stick to club cliques, lose, and high tail it back a casa.
Until, at least, La Furia Roja cut the Furia baggage and transformed into the simpler La Roja. Prior to the first seemingly innocuous utterance of La Roja by Aragones during the 2008 eliminatorias, the Spanish national team was still being referred to as La Furia, a hangover and constant reminder of the Franco era.
Hence the title of the book : the symbolic meaning of La Roja is the central treatise of Burns’ book, as he takes us on a socio-political-cultural journey through the history of Spanish football.
Burns takes us from the very genesis of Spanish football (introduced by los ingleses, claro), right up to the present day and the eve of Euro 2012. Along the way, each era is contextualised based on the socio-political climate of the time; from the notoriously Blancos-favoured Franco era, through to the politicised and obscure Euro ’64 victory by Fascist Spain over the Communist Soviets. The key protagonists are expertly interwoven into the story, from The Good (Di Stefano, Del Bosque), to the Bad (Jesus Gil), and The Ugly (Javier Clemente).
There’s some indulgence on the part of Burns, not least when he suddenly introuduces the most unlikely figure of Ardal O’Hanlon to describe the intensity of the Real Madrid-Barca / Castillian – Catalan rivalry. A bit like your dog walking in during sex, Father Dougal gatecrashing the scene just seems to kill the romantic mysticism. Besides, neither Dougal nor Burns have much new to say on Barça; he said it all in Barça : A People’s Passion, so it was probably surplus to requirements.
It may be a bit light on empirical proof and a bit too heavy on personal opinions, but it’s nonetheless a fantastic read; and with La Roja having just been crowned Kings of Europe once again, all the more reason to delve into the past and put gain some contextual insight into the most revolutionary football movement of all time.
To win a copy of La Roja answer the following question: Who is Spain’s record goalscorer? Raul, Emiligo Butragueno, or David Villa?
The competition ends on Wednesday.