Action Replay: The Beautiful Game

Much was made of the political symbolism of the European Football Championships. Germany overwhelmed Greece and was then themselves taken apart by Italy (this is in football, not the eurozone economy). But Spain won, earning claims that they are the greatest team ever.

Back home in Spain, though, all is not well, with the recession hitting even harder than in Britain. Perhaps a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, while the figure rises to a scarcely-credible one-half of those under twenty-five.

Yet for one night, on 1 July after victory in the final, Spanish people were celebrating. ‘We’ll forget all the bad things that are happening. Even if it’s just for one day,’ said a nurse who had just finished her first day’s work in eleven months (BBC News website, 2 July).

Being on the dole gives you plenty of time to celebrate but, of course, less money to enjoy yourself. No doubt there were plenty of hangovers on the morning of 2 July, though there was no change in the unemployment situation. It would be silly to claim that it’s just a matter of bread and circuses, that sporting success helps reconcile workers to their downtrodden position. But it is certainly very handy for the rulers.

However many Spaniards do not need to worry about getting paid or scraping by on benefits. There are a number of billionaires, but by far the richest person in the country is Amancio Ortega, owner of the chain of Zara clothes shops, and worth a cool $37bn. Spain may have ‘taken football to a new level’ but some of the population occupy their very own level of wealth and exploitation.

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