The Championship

Thoughts on sport, competition and nationalism

These days is been playing the European Football Championship, today it will be played the final match between Spain and Italy. Probably just a few of U.S.A. readers know about this, but every European people know it very well, even those who don’t like football.

I’m Spanish, but I don’t know why I should be happy if the guys of Spanish nationality defeat the guys of Italian nationality, or to be sad if the opposite thing happens.

hooligan kid
picture from

And the same can be said about the rest of sports. Why should I be happy if F1 pilot Fernando Alonso wins? He is Spanish, yes, but also an unpleasant and arrogant person with bad manners, cheat and poor loser. Also he set up his official residence in Switzerland to avoid paying tax in Spain, during years, and just changed it to Spain when his sponsor forced him, trying to improve his image. And tennis player Nadal? This one is different, he seems a normal person, but why should I prefer him to Djokovic, Federer or Rosol, or why should I prefer any of them? Because Nadal has the same nationality than me and the others are foreigners? That isn’t a valid reason for me.

Sports competitions are tightly intertwined with nationalism. And nationalism is an ideology, a political ideology, that is something that most of people seems to forget or ignore. Nationalism was inexistent during centuries, but it emerged in 18th century and stayed with us. It was very useful for development of fascism and the named World Wars I and II. In the name of nationalism and motherland, the greatest crimes and genocides have been justified. Nationalism is fulfilling since 18th century the same function previously religion did.

German football team making Nazi salute
Germany, 1938

Of course there are people who simply like football, and like to watch two good teams. It’s a delight to watch a good football match (although U.S.A. people will not understand it, I guess). But people who run to streets with their flags, shouting the name of their nation like possessed, are doing nationalism, so are doing politics.

man with Spain flag on faceMany of those, Italian or Spanish people, who tonight will celebrate the championship, think they aren’t interested in politics. And it’s partially true, they aren’t interested in inportant politics, in the matters affecting daily our lives, like economic politic, labour law, social protection, etc. But they are trapped by useless symbols.

Most of people who tonight will celebrate a victory with their flags in the streets are unaware they have chosen a political ideology. One of the most absurd and dangerous ideologies, to think that you are better because you are Spanish, or Italian, or German, or wherever. And coming back to the Football Championship, it’s really silly to think you are better because some guys with the same nationality than you defeat others playing with a ball.



After having written this post, I’ve read that Italian players have promised to donate the premium to be carried in case of winning the final to those affected by an earthquake last May. In Spain, more than 68.000 persons have signed a campaign asking Spanish players to donate their premium for social purposes, and Spanish players haven’t answered. Italy is winning the match, before to start.


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