It's a game of football, nothing more. It isn't going to sort anything out beyond Spain's qualification for the next World Cup - which isn't to be sniffed at, by the way. Back when I was a teenager, that was a real struggle for La Roja. We didn't go to the World Cup in '70 or '74, and that was after stinking the place out in '62 and '66. When we made it back to the finals, in '78, we also did badly. And don't get me started on World Cup '82, which we hosted and well and truly showed ourselves up in. At that time, as the writer Francisco Umbral used to say, the Spain team was a permanent date with pessimism. Nowadays, on the other hand, we have a right good national side; a terrific one, even. Today, they play in Alicante.
The country's in the situation it's in, with the tension surrounding Catalonia at critical levels. And with Gerard Piqué, a lad allergic to keeping his counsel, the focus of the attention. Piqué, a superb centre-back who's been a dedicated, long-standing element of the national team in an impeccable Spain career, and is Sergio Ramos' partner at the heart of defence. Catalan alongside Andalusian; two guys so different in certain ways, and yet so alike in others. In charge is Julen Lopetegui, a calm Basque who has managed the week's tension. Piqué has stopped tweeting. He came out and said his bit; Ramos came out and said his. Both spoke well, and both will go out there in it together and all out to win this game.
I imagine that there'll be no shortage of people in Alicante who'll share that mindset. The behaviour of those who turned out at yesterday's training session encourages me to think that way. Football was born to bring happiness, not discord. In the midst of this crisis, perhaps it's unfair to demand of it an attitude that rises above that which our politicians are demonstrating. That I concede. It isn't fair; but it is necessary. And I think it is showing it. Given what we've seen, I think that the way Lopetegui, Piqué and Ramos have conducted themselves in recent days offers a lesson to others. And after tonight's match, I'd really like to be able to say the same about those in attendance at the Estadio José Rico Pérez.