Spain’s Exit from the London Olympics Is a Wake-Up Call; Who Will Hear It?

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It always makes me smile, if only inwardly, when a country is beaten by one of its former colonies. But it made me doubly happy that this country happened to be Spain, and that, with their loss to Honduras minutes ago, the Spanish are now mathematically unable to advance into the next round of the olympic tournament. No me digas.

Yesterday I wrote that Spain’s stumble against Japan was a minor glitch—a passing blip on the radar—that by itself didn’t mean much but could potentially spell the eventual (and inevitable) end of an era in international football. Yes, it’s just the B-squad, with some notable stars, but it’s still the same Spanish system in play, and two losses in a row might hint that such a system is stalling, and that, more importantly, other teams are (finally) catching up.

Real Madrid and Chelsea grinded down the Barcelona juggernaut, throwing their system into doubt and even possibly inducing the unraveling of their management team. I rejoiced. But then, Barcelona, i.e. Spain, came roaring back in Euro 2012, looking not quite as invincible as previously thought but still willing their way to victory in their third consecutive major tournament. And then came the chants from all corners that this Spanish team is the best ever. I rolled my eyes.

But now, doubt has perhaps once again begun to creep in about this lauded (and just absolutely gushed over) Spanish system, which has been elevated to the level of near-philosophy (or should I say religion; just see what happens when you publicly criticize it). Yesterday I would’ve said that the Olympics don’t much matter in the grand scheme of things in football. Now I’m forced to reconsider. A team other than Spain will be adorned with gold in the coming weeks, and that simple fact just may end up echoing across the Atlantic in 2014.

The magical gypsy Melquíades imparts to José Arcadio Buendía in One Hundred Years of Solitude the provocative wisdom that “las cosas tienen vida propia, todo es cuestión de despertarles el ánima.” Perhaps the Hondurans have discovered that what they can bring to life is old-fashioned, spirited American football. Maybe other teams, especially in the region, will take notice, and will have woken themselves up by the time they arrive in Brazil.