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The Spanish Corner: Strikes, Streaks and Shakira

“Spain is anything but boring,” writes Garreth Nunn in this week’s column on La Liga’s latest madness.

Image: Pedro Acosta/AP/Press Association Images

THE ANNOUNCEMENT WAS a long time coming. Spain came to a standstill. Nobody knew what to expect. And then it was announced.

It was a week when José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said that he would not be standing for re- election as the prime minster of Spain. But, that was not the announcement all of Spain had been waiting for. That happened on Wednesday when a Spanish judge ruled that a planned strike was illegal.

Although the term ‘strike’ was incorrect as it was technically a lockout. The LFP announced that it was planning the postponement of games without considering the fans. Spaniards were in shock at the fact that the LFP would make such a bold move during the season.

But this is Spain. The reason for the strike was not over racist chanting that had again raised its ugly head, not about clubs like Hercules, Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano failing to pay players wages but about a game.

Yes, a game.

In Spain, one game per week is shown on public television. This game is played on Saturday nights at 10pm and broadcast on La Sexta, a national TV channel. The LFP claim that is affects revenue and believe a removal of the obliged free to view game would strengthen the bargaining power of the Spanish league when it sold its TV rights.

Spain does not follow the English system of selling its broadcasting rights. Instead of a collective system, each club is allowed to negotiate their own terms. This gives the “Big Two” a huge advantage.

Real apparently earn in broadcasting €160.8m according to the latest Deloitte reports into the finances in football. Teams at the bottom only earn a fraction of that and it is with that in mind the LFP want to make things a little fairer.

Spain is currently on course to become like the Scottish League, a two-horse league. Many clubs want changes and no more so than Sevilla. Sevilla’s president José María del Nido is famous for shouting his mouth off for nothing but it seems that for once he might actually have a point. Even with the new deal that is being proposed Real and Barça will earn a lot more than the rest. Something he is not happy with.

But one problem with the new rights package is the government’s refusal to scrap the free-to-view game. So the LFP called a lockout and Spain faced a weekend without football. But led by del Nido, six rebel clubs appealed the decision. Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao and Real Zaragoza all protested against the decision.

Fans were furious. Some had paid for train and plane tickets and hotels. The plan was to postpone the games until June and Spain became a laughing stock across Europe as they failed to keep their house in order. Surely there were more pressing matters to deal with. Conspiracy theorists started to claim that the so called strike was planned to coincide with both Real and Barça playing difficult Champions League games.

When the Madrid court announced that the actions of the LFP were against the law, people celebrated across Spain. Something most would do when Zapatero would also make his announcement.

***

It had to happen sooner or later but Karma played a part in ending Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten streak at home. The one person in Spain that was left wishing that the proposed postponement of games had happened was the Portuguese master.

Nine years in the making, it was poetic that it was Sporting de Gijon who would end the run and effectively end Real’s chances of winning La Liga. Earlier in the year Mourinho and Manuel Preciado were involved in a very public argument when Mourinho claimed that Sporting had fielded a weakened team against Barça and that Real had no chance of winning the title should smaller clubs help Barça.

So Sporting caused an upset and if the truth be known, Real actually deserved the win. In a game that saw the Brazilian Ronaldo given a special award before the game, Real showed spirit but were just not lucky enough.

But according to daily sports newspaper Marca, it wasn’t Mourinho’s fault. Eh? Yes the blame fell to Mourinho’s predecessors, Pellegrini and Schuster. Yes, you read it right – Spain is never boring.

***

And if that didn’t shock you, I bet this will.

Marca launched a campaign to have all music from Shakira, yes the singer, banned from the Bernabeu. Why? Her boyfriend is Barça defender Gerard Pique. But on page 9 of Marca on Sunday there was a story of dismay as the Bernabeu had played a Shakira song. Oh the horror. For those interested the song that was played was ‘Lobo’and not Waka Waka. Some relief there then.

And Shakira’s boyfriend was in the spotlight himself on Saturday night as he appeared to handle the ball. The replay tends to show that he didn’t but expect plenty of debate. One thing that won’t be debated was his finish as he slotted it home with a coolness more commonly seen from Messi and Villa. Villarreal are still in the Champions League spots but will be disappointed that they didn’t get something out of the game.

***

Levante. The team that once had Ian Harte in their ranks and are a bit of a yoyo club just can’t stop getting results. Now up to the lofty heights of 10th it looks like they will avoid relegation. Coach Luis Garcia (no, not that one) has seen his stock rise and has even been mentioned as a possible replacement should Quique Sanchez Flores leave Atletico de Madrid.


Quique Sanchez Flores brought his Atleti team to face Osasuna, where they have only won once in recent times. With no Kun Agüero things didn’t look good to start with but by dropping Forlán to the bench and starting with Raul Garcia and Diego Costa, Atleti fans held their breaths. Worse was to come when they went one down but cometh the hour cometh the man and Diego Costa helped silence his critics with a well taken hat trick. The 3-2 win for Atleti even saw Reyes miss a penalty but Quique Sanchez Flores will be happy to see the team in contention for the European places again.

Garreth Nunn is the co-founder and writer for the website www.madridatleticos.com. He contributes to a weekly podcast called ‘This is Atleti’ that gives insight into following a Spanish Club and is available via iTunes. You can find him also on Twitter: @madridatleticos and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/madridatleticos

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