Victory at Euro 2008, the World Cup 2010 and now Euro 2012. A feat that many will argue solidifies Spain as the greatest international team in the history of the sport. So, what’s there to complain about?
To answer this, I refer to Joachim Löw’s Germany. Following a crushing 4-1 victory over their long-time ‘nemesis’, Germany’s players immediately walked over to the fallen England players, offered their hands as a means of consolation and continued this process until all hands were shaken. Proud, yet respectful in victory.
Fast forward to their 2012 defeat to Italy in this year’s Euro 2012 Semi-Final and what transpired was something all too familiar. Handshakes from the German players, this time as a means of congratulations. Proud, yet dignified in defeat.
Personally, I use this as the benchmark of player behaviour. I feel much of it
is as instructed as it perhaps is inherent, but much of this behaviour perhaps comes following their sordid fracas with Argentina in 2006. Punches and kicks were thrown after the final whistle. The aftermath left a sour taste in many mouths and Löw likely felt it was necessary to never see this repeated.
So switching the focus back to Spain and we have three international tournament victories, success at club level for near enough the entire Barcelona and Real Madrid contingent, Champions League success for the likes of Mata and Torres but as soon as the final whistle blew this past Sunday, this group of undoubtedly gifted men, fell way short of the desired benchmark.
As Spain’s playing and coaching contingent flooded the field, leapt
into the crowds and completed laps of victory, Iker Casillas stood apart and met the benchmark singlehandedly. One man, the captain no less, walked over to the gathered and deflated Italians and shook every man’s hand, the rest of the team only following suit when UEFA’s medal precession was required. He was a proud man, respectful in victory.
Following their 1-1 draw with Italy in the Group C’s opener, Cesc Fabregas rushed to the press to complain about the state of the pitch. No respect given to how well Italy had played, simply an excuse offered to why they hadn’t secured victory. Undignified in near defeat, disrespectful in victory.
For all their success and ability, perhaps now it is time for Spain to fully respect their opponents and meet the desired benchmark for behaviour. Do this, and maybe then we will witness footballing perfection. If one man can do it, surely the rest can follow his lead.