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Feb 022014
Some people sometimes ask me why I comment on a league so far away and in a language, and of a culture, so foreign to our own and I’ll tell them that if I don’t, well then who again will, because I will tell you, the people who are forming the opinions of the Spanish League and of Spain in general, in English, are idiots.

It’s why I spend so much time at here trying to bridge the language barrier, writing about customs and of the curiosities we find that distinguish La Liga from the English Premier League or Serie A. I do my best. I try to see their point, the criticisms of Spanish futbol are varied and most of them have merit. The Spanish league has a problem with referees. There is a tendency to simulate. There is also less tackling as they say. There is also more football being played. When the ball is retrieved it is used and not lumped towards the opponents goal. The ball is played at the feet more often than not. A tackle is used to stop an attack, retrieve the ball, start a counter-attack, not to draw the crowd’s attention to a player’s endeavor and away from his appalling lack of skill. Oh, and let’s not talk about simulation.

I’ve seen the videos of phantom penalties being given at the Kop End, the North Bank or at the Stretford End. It’s rampant in England as well, and not just because a wave of immigrants came in to teach the insular Brits how to cheat at foosball, but because that’s what players do to win one for their team, especially when you have overweight refs (and none are more round around the tummy as the English) trying to adjudicate the beer league down by the local pub let alone in a fast paced professional league like the EPL.

No, actually I’d like to comment on the big problems that Spanish football is often accused of: on the scale of corruption, racism, fascism, you know, the big ones. We’ve all seen the monkey-chants coming from the curvas, and we’ve seen the swastikas brandished amongst the ultras in Spain, but it would be unwise to brand it a latin disease endemic to “southern European cultures.”

There is also a segment of commentators who discount Spanish football and Real Madrid’s accomplishments specifically because they were Franco’s team. Do they know anything about Spanish history? Do they know that Franco himself was Galician and hated football? Do they know that it was actually Santiago Bernabeu, the legendary Real Madrid chairman who aligned himself to the regime, that glommed the whites onto the Castilian fascist agenda ignoring the fact that the club’s DNA is as much Republican as it is Falangist, as much Catalan as it is Spanish? Yes, two of its founders the brothers Juan and Carlos Padros were born in Barcelona, Oh, and that the previous regime at Real Madrid had been either killed or exiled leaving the door wide open for Bernabeu to step in? No, they don’t know. It’s easier to cast the clubs in black and white, white versus blaugrana, good versus evil terms, when history is far from it; there are no good guys in history.

Oh, and as if England has any great shakes to say about fascism, considering that the English disease of hooliganism spread around the disaffected youth that mingled around English grounds, spouting out National Front slogans and infecting the supporter’s firms with their right-wing, beyond Thatcherist agenda long before their influence migrated to Italy, Spain or France. In fact, is there a country in Europe that isn't dealing with the problems of immigration in this day and age? I guess talking about Belgium’s recent nativist tendencies, or the rise of anti-immigrant groups in the Netherlands or even Germany of all places, would be counter-indicative to their argument.

The fact is that Spain, above and beyond all else dredged up from their past, is a vibrant, often complex country still dealing with the decades of being left behind the post-war European/American gravy train. It is a fractured country; a collection of cultures and languages, a stew of ethnicities, at times very Iberian (Catholic and conservative) and yet very European (modern and liberal) at the same time. It is no better nor worse than any of their neighbors, especially in their football.
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The Ball is Flat is a website and podcast devoted to the Beautiful Game. Football, Futbol, Fusball or whatever you call it, it is the game that divides and unites us. The Ball is Flat's mission is to cover European football with an eye open, the heart in motion, and the brain colored with the right amount of cheerful cynicism. Read more:

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