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Letter from Spain #18
Spain wins the World Cup and gets a new parliament speaker ... plus TBC notes & research
I didn’t feel I could lose today, with Spain playing England in the Women’s World Cup Final, and I didn’t. My heart (and a sense of obligation) wanted a victory for England, but Spain were the better side on the day - and if England have to lose against anyone in anything, then I guess Spain is fine.
Spain are now the fifth team to lift the World Cup since the tournament began in 1991, joining the United States, Germany, Norway and Japan.
The match itself was great. I watched the first half in the heaving Tres Quarts bar here in Sitges, but decided it would be more comfortable to watch the second half at home. I’ve seen a few of Spain’s games during this World Cup, but as is often the case with these tournaments it is mostly the ‘off the pitch’ news that catches my attention.
For example, the Spanish team’s victory is a clear vindication for the coach Jorge Vilda and the Spanish Football Federation. In September last year, 15 players – many of them from FC Barcelona – had said they no longer wanted to represent their country under him, criticising his strictness, his lack of success, his tactics and his methods of coaching. The federation stuck by him.
Three of the 15 ‘mutineers’ returned for the World Cup and one of them, Barcelona player Aitana Bonmati, was one of the best players at the tournament.
Three of Spain’s best players, however, Mapi León, Patri Guijarro and Sandra Paños, were not named in the squad.
I think Vilda himself was getting more than pissed off from being repeatedly asked by reporters at the tournament about the missing players, and even quizzed about whether the ones he took to Australia and New Zealand even liked him.
‘Next question, please,’ he said a couple of times during the press conferences, trying to change the line of questioning. His team won, FFS. He must feel a huge sense of relief … and a desire to put his middle finger up at all his critics.
The other issue that caught my attention (and everyone else’s, I imagine) were the reminders that the women’s game has to clearly continue fighting for equality.
Spain’s Queen Letizia made it to Australia with one of her daughters for the final, but Prince William and Rishi Sunak were both criticised for not going, while England’s kit supplier Nike was slammed for not putting a replica of Mary Earps’ goalkeeping jersey up for sale alongside those of the other players.
Earps saved a penalty during the final and was named the best goalkeeper of the tournament, becoming one of England’s most popular players in the process. Nike, however, believed she was too unimportant to bother to sell replicas of her shirt, only for her fans to bring the corporate giant to heel.
And let’s not forget the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, who reportedly earned €3.6 million in salary and bonuses in 2022, urging the women footballers to ‘pick the right battles’ in their fight for equal pay, while placing the onus on them to enforce the change.
Infantino said: ‘And I say to all the women, and you know I have four daughters, so I have a few at home, I say to all the women that you have the power to change. Pick the right battles. Pick the right fights. You have the power to change. You have the power to convince us men what we have to do and what we don’t have to do. You do it. Just do it. With men, with Fifa, you will find open doors. Just push the doors. They are open.’
The women’s final had a prize pot of $110m, more than three times what was on offer in France in 2019, but still significantly less than the $440m awarded at the 2022 men’s competition in Qatar.
While we’re here, let’s not forget Infantino’s bizarre, rambling speech at the last men’s World Cup, appearing to suggest that his own experiences as a son of Italian immigrants in Switzerland gave him a deep understanding of migrant workers and other minority groups in Qatar:
‘Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arabic. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker.’
He then added: ‘Of course I am not Qatari, I am not an Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled. But I feel like it, because I know what it means to be discriminated [against], to be bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign country. As a child I was bullied – because I had red hair and freckles, plus I was Italian, so imagine.’
Later it was pointed out that in his opening monologue, he had missed out half the world’s population. ‘I feel like a woman, too!’ Infantino added.
Anyway … Spain also voted in a new Speaker for Parliament this week, Francina Armengol, the candidate proposed by Spain’s PSOE socialist party, which has been seen as an important win for Pedro Sánchez in his fight to be re-elected as prime minister. They secured 178 votes in the 350-seat chamber, after securing a last-minute deal with the Catalan pro-independence parties - Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) - and with the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) group, with whom they further endorsed an existing pact of support.
I’ll write more about this over the coming weeks, as the investiture debate kicks off - but surely the PP leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, must finally realise that his figures don’t add up? His own candidate didn’t even get the votes from the far-right Vox party, because he didn’t agree to give them a ‘seat’ at the parliament speaker’s table [committee]. More on this next week …
The Barcelona Connection - Research
For those of you following this blog’s research and the locations behind The Barcelona Connection, the action that takes place in Chapter 15 is focused near to Sants railway station, Les Corts, and then specifically the Plaça de la Concòrdia …
A few years ago, I had to personally sprint up and down the circular ramp of a car-park near Sants station, up several levels, after forgetting to take a bag from a car I’d just parked, and which I needed for the AVE train I was already running late to catch for Madrid … so I know exactly how Benjamin felt.
As for the Plaça de la Concòrdia, it’s a unique, beautiful square off the tourist trail, and I highly recommend it. Lit up at night, it has even more charm. I first discovered it after visiting Fragments Café there, run by a friend of mine … and then for a few months in 2010 I rented a small flat in the Carrer del Remei, just off the square.
Benjamin looked towards where she was pointing. The square was dominated by a church and bell tower, but there was also a news kiosk, several cafés, a fountain and an old pharmacy, all set amid ornate lamp-posts. People were peering down from wrought-iron balconies, curious as to who was disturbing the tranquility of their neighbourhood. Benjamin couldn’t see anyone who looked as if he’d had his bike stolen, and he didn’t want to hang around.
The top two photos were taken by me in January last year, visiting the square with Juliane. The next two by Paola de Grenet, and the last by Edu Bayer, at the height of the Covid pandemic, and hence the elderly gentleman waiting outside the pharmacy, where there are chairs for others to also sit and wait. These last three photos are from the Barcelona.cat library of images.
Next week, Chapter 16 and La Vanguardia’s offices …
Previous links to my research notes are here:
The Barcelona Connection - Reviews, News & Events
On Thursday 28 September I am doing an event at The Secret Kingdoms bookstore in Madrid, chatting about The Barcelona Connection and A Load of Bull with Ann Louise Bateson, radio producer, former BBC contributor and presenter of the English language programme, ‘Madrid Live’. Drinks and snacks will also be served, and although the event is free, places will be limited - so if you’re interested in coming along, then it would be wise to reserve your place by clicking on this Eventbrite link. It will be a fun evening and I hope to see you there!
Another date for the diary, this time in Barcelona. On Saturday 28 October at 2.30pm, I will be participating in a roundtable discussion hosted by Barcelona City Council for their annual International Community Day, with the topic being ‘Discovering & Enjoying Barcelona through Literature’. The event will take place at the Museu Marítim de Barcelona. More details in due course.
As soon as I have news about a possible event at The Salvador Dalí Museum in Florida, I will post details about it here.
Links to reviews & articles
Here’s the link for a review of The Barcelona Connection that came out in La Revista, a publication of the British-Spanish Society.
Here’s a link to a review of the book published by the Spain in English online newspaper.
Here’s the link to an article I was asked to write for The Art Newspaper about my research on Salvador Dalí.
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