One of the unfortunate sidenotes about the buildup to this version of the Copa del Rey has been highlighted again by the statements that conservative rep. Esperanza Aguirre, the President of the Madrid Community, told Radio Onda Cero this week. Directed at the Basque and Catalan supporters who will likely jeer and whistle both the monarchy and the Spanish national anthem at the Vicente Calderon this week, Aguirre stated that, "insults to the flag or the anthem are a crime under the penal code. It should not be allowed and as such, in my opinion, the game should be suspended and held behind closed doors somewhere else."
It is an unfortunate statement. Despite what you may or may not believe about nationalism, the rights of free citizens to express an opinion in a public place, or even the right to orderly dissent, let alone the rights of not just one cultural minority but two congregating on a national stage, Aguirre was fomenting a peculiar brand of authoritarianism, the "if you're not with us, you're against us", that people in this country know very well.
The more troubling thought as reported in Telecinco.es is that while the uproar over what form Basque and Catalan protests will take place (if at all), the Tribunal Superior de la Justicia de Madrid have ruled for allowing a march on the city by members of extremist far-right groups in Spain on the very day of the Cup final and that National Police have been made aware of chatter on message boards and social media with "violent and xenophobic connotations" directed to the Basques and Catalans who will be at the Vicente Calderon.
The end of the march will likely coincide with the end of the match, and while the authorities have plans in place to limit access, all that is needed is an incident or two at the Cup final, a ready-made-villain for the conservative press, and the resulting mess can be used to distract from what Gerard Pique called the "much more important problems that this country has to worry about."
Sadly, this particular final which had the sort of talking points that lesser matches like the Champions League final only dreamed of having: Pep Guardiola's last match in charge of the blaugrana and meeting his spiritual footballing guru Marcelo Bielsa in the process, plus watching what the youngsters of Spain's second most exciting offensive side could do against arguably the greatest club side in history, is being overshadowed by all the ridiculousness.
First there was the inability to decide on a venue, the original site the Santiago Bernabeu came upon last minute repairs, and then the Federation's inability to decide on a time and date considering that most of Spain's Euro 2012 are already congregating for training in that competition and La Roja will be late to the party. And now this? Every time I think nothing could get screwier in Spanish football, I remember how fragile this all really is. This Golden-Age, this four-year magic bubble that we have all been inside, has burst; popped from the inside.
read more: Copa del Rey protests distract from the game