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No football in Spain
by Thanos Kalamidas
2006-12-16 10:30:27
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It is just days since I met a very good friend of mine from Spain and naturally after we had sorted out all the major and minor problems of the world we ended up discussing sport. It doesn’t matter how rarely we meet, we always end up talking about sports, especially football.

Both of our countries’ basketball teams and national teams are protagonists in international basketball and both of our teams were the finalists in the last world cup with Spain beating Greece…this time! We both congratulated each other like we had been playing in the game – and the truth is that I wouldn’t be able to survive two seconds in a basketball game; and then we got to football.

Ok, I have to admit it, I like Spanish championship. It is the most competitive football league in the world and it is all about show. The best players from all around the world play there and if they don’t they are dreaming about it. I mean even in my most secret dreams I can see myself playing there and anybody who loves football always takes a look at the games played in Spain. Every sports channel has a special hour all about Spanish football and ‘primera division’, plus all the sports programs definitely have at least one in the their top three goals of the week from Spain.

I think Raul is one of the best players in the world and I think now he has matured he will show us much more than he did over the last decade, but please don’t stop there. Ronaldinho and Ronaldo…just saying their names is enough. Young Ronaldinho is all about football, the more mature Ronaldo is the ultimate technique, and the man scores 20 to 25 goals per season and in a competitive division like the first division in Spain, 25 goals per season is just fantastic.

And as I was going on talking about football players playing in Spain and how exciting it must be going to the football stadium to see them, I noticed that my usually talkative friend was pretty quiet just listening. So I stopped and asked if there was something wrong. After all, I was talking about his country’s football and also avoided reminding him that Greece had beaten Spain in the last European Cup.

His answer was, “Out of this of names you mention, did you see any Spanish names? I mean Spanish, born in Spain, lived in Spain? You mentioned Brazilians, Serbians, Argentineans and Mexicans, English, Germans, Swedes, even Greeks but the only Spanish name you mentioned was Raul. So, where is Spanish football to all that?”

“There is no football in Spain,” he continued, “There is only money and football players who come to Spain for the money, the sunshine and the good time. Where are the young Spaniards? Where are all these stars of the past with all their passion? They lose a game in the Champions League and they say, ‘It doesn’t matter…things like that happen.’ In the past they would be crying for days and they would have fought till the last second. Spanish football is nowhere. It has become like a monster collecting mercenaries from all around the world with just one job to do – and most of them doing it very well – but they kill Spanish football daily.”

My friend made think, not about Spain, but about my own home country of Greece. 11 out of the 18 players are mercenaries who saw their participation in the team as a step before the next one with better money or as their last chance to make money before retirement. Players that nobody wants in any serious league and others in their sunset of their career not able to run more than ten minutes and with arrogant attitude coming from their past glories. We also have coaches that say things like, ‘It doesn’t matter, we win some games and we lose others.’ I got angry.

Yes, it does matter to me. I’m expecting the team that led Greek football and reached the final of the European cup to be always a winner and when they lose I expect the players to be hurt and cry the same way I do. I’m expecting them to give 110% of their power for the team and the colors. Unfortunately the only thing that seems to bother them is that they lost the extra money after a defeat.

Greek football is nothing like Spanish football, there is no Ronaldino or Rivaldo but there is Ronaldo and tens of others like Ronaldo, perhaps not carrying his glories but with their share in the international football scene. They are mercenaries that take a lot of money, the cost of Ronaldo to Olympiakos was nearly equal to the whole budget of half of the team in the Greek first division put all together. And where are the Greek players? Probably looking for a future in Spain, definitely in Germany and England. So where football has gone?

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