Spain As Champions Of America? Bad Idea

  Following the tragic earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan the Japanese national team withdrew from the Copa America. The Japanese side had already been drawn against Argentina, Bolivia and Columbia in the group stages but their departure left a gap which, it was revealed, the reigning world champions Spain have been asked to fill. The news was broken by the Spanish football federation (RFEF) chief Angel Maria Villar who further commented that the RFEF were considering the option. Villar also stated that, as President, he is in favour of Spain going. And as President he usually gets what he wants. But while the withdrawal of the Japanese team is totally understandable given the terrible circumstances, the idea of Spain attending is a terrible one.

  From the point of view of the Copa America it would be a mixed blessing. On the one hand the participation of the world champions and their tiki-taka tyranny would boost the profile of the tournament, especially in Europe enticing some big juicy television audiences. But the inclusion of Xavi et al would mean that Group A, already murderously hard becomes more savagely difficult than solving a Rubik’s cube blindfolded. Progression to the quarter-finals goes to the top two sides and the two best third places teams. Columbia and Bolivia, who would originally have stood a very good chance of progressing against Japan, would most likely be vying for a possible third place qualification only to face the likes of Brazil or Uruguay. The only fair replacement for Japan would be a team of similar stature. Inviting South Korea or Australia following their performances in the Asian Cup would be reasonable. Furthermore, the pride of South America will hardly be enhanced if a European nation come down and sweep all opposition aside. After all it’s supposed to be the American championships so why an outside nation needs to be invited is mystifying to begin with. Should that nation thrash all other comers, the humiliation would be that much worse. So from the host’s point of view there are ups and downs to having the world champions attend.

  However from the point of view of the Spanish national team attending the Copa America would be disastrous. Since winning Euro 2008 the Spanish side has been playing non-stop football for nearly three years. Given the fact that the majority of the side comes from Barcelona, aside from when they are actually in possession, they never get a rest. Pep Guardiola and his boys won everything they could get their grubby mitts on in 2009 and almost did the same in 2010. The likes of Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos (aka anyone who doesn’t play for FC Wonderful) also have intensely packed schedules. Due to the fact they just don’t seem to lose since 2008 the Spanish have played every game of every tournament aside from the final of the Confederations Cup when the USA knocked them out in the semi-finals. That is one missed game in three years. The very best thing for these players would be a summer without having to play any football. Chelsea must be desperate for Fernando Torres to have a good few months of rest to try and recover his form and fitness. Fundamentally footballers are some of the most expensive pieces of meat on the planet. The clubs pay ludicrous amounts for said meat and have every right to want it in the best possible condition.

  However, the RFEF is hardly an institution with a reputation for competence as any regular reader of Sid Lowe or La Liga Loca can testify. It’s the organisation which insisted that players going on strike would be totally illegal and then within a few months, threw their support behind the clubs going on strike due to needing more money to pay back a whopping €700m they owe to the government that the RFEF allowed them to rack up. It’s the governing body which refuses to schedule fixtures more than a week in advance presumably or no other reason that sheer sociopathic bloody-mindedness. It seems impossible to believe that allowing Xavi et al to go to Argentina in July is anything other than an attempt to line the pockets of RFEF officials and given them a nice excuse for a holiday in Buenos Aires.

  The argument that footballers are the oppressed masses yearning to be free from the yoke of their bourgeois masters is hardly going to carry much weight but it’s always better to see the rock stars that make the music getting paid in order to buy more hookers and blow rather the suits that grow fat off their labour. Even leaving aside the amateurish Marxist ramblings, the RFEF would be shooting itself in the foot to try and keep working its stars this hard. If Spain want to retain their title as European champions in 2012, the best thing the RFEF can do is to give their players a summer of uninterrupted rest. As disturbing as it is to imagine Vincente del Bosque squatting down to lay an egg, the phrase about not killing the Golden Goose exists for a reason. 

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