World Champions

By Daniel de la Calle

Three days ago Spain, “we” since I am Spanish, won the Soccer World Championship for the first time. While I was in Brazil in June I attended, absolutely mesmerized, all the Brazilian games and witnessed a paralyzed country absolutely mad about their 11 heroes. People gathered in bars, drank beer and ate a bit wearing the national colors, dancing to the thousands of live bands that played live samba music at halftime and after the match and then drove around town in a madness of trumpets, horns and firecrackers until the next morning. The country is fortunate the World Cup only takes place every four years, otherwise their industry would collapse. I have never seen, and probably never will so many men and women wearing that trickiest color in fashion: yellow.

When I arrived back in Spain two weeks ago I was surprised to see my country covered in red. It has been ten years since I moved to the States and a lot has changed. To my generation and to anyone older than me the national flag had a lot of connotations, most of which were negative and had to do with Franco’s dictatorship.

That is over: after the victory in the final against The Netherlands (to many this is the biggest thing that has happened in their lives) everyone is wearing some red, flags are in every balcony and there are several songs out there that refer to the pride of being Spanish. There is a general sense of joy and pride that is probably as silly as contagious. And the craziest thing of it all is that this game that rules so many people’s lives, this state of mind, is actually going to affect the economy: the prognoses is 0.7 to 1% extra growth this year. It seems we will have more faith in ourselves, we will be elated by the win and buy more, consume more, which will increase production in a way that our politicians seem incapable to do. Things are better now than a week ago, we are coming out of recession.

In a way I find it funny and touching, that a mood change can have such an impact. In a way as well it gives me hope to think that something as small and simple as a little extra happiness can turn things around. But in another way as well I have to admit that it truly and deeply pisses me off. It pisses me off big time, because I can almost touch and smell how simple it could be to change certain things if we all decided this is where we want to go, this is what we believe in, these are our priorities.

There is a heat wave around Europe. Somebody interviewed Michael Laudrup (former fantastic soccer player) on the radio the other day and he said it was as hot in Sweden as it was in Spain. The interviewer thought it was a joke, but Laudrup answered in a very matter of fact way and said: ” No, no, it is 38 degrees [celsius]. Must be climate change”. And then they moved on to the next subject: pre-season training. It gave me goose bumps. We have assimilated this as our new reality and will soon assimilate in the same casual way when the effects of ocean acidification are more visible to the general public. There will probably be some funny jokes about coral reefs or the scarcity of oysters. We will assimilate and pretend to “adapt” to the extent we can, and move on. For a while longer, at least.

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