Madrid hosts part two of the European game's 'English week'
During my childhood, people in Spain started talking about the semana inglesa: the 'English week'. When I asked what that was, it was explained to me that they got the whole weekend off in the UK. In those days, you see, Spaniards still had to work or go to school on Saturdays. The only concession made to us schoolkids was to let us out at lunchtime on a Thursday. In time, the 'English week' ended up establishing itself here (in the education system, this began with the Thursday half-holiday being moved to Saturday, before we were finally given the morning off too), and our way of doing things shifted into line with theirs. We embraced the arrangement as readily as we had given ourselves over to the beautiful game back in the day.
That's where I was headed, you'll have guessed: to football, and another kind of 'English week' that sees two all-Premier League finals: yesterday's, between Arsenal and Chelsea, and Saturday's Tottenham-Liverpool clash. England has started to make its TV riches count, has modernised its methods by bringing in coaches from abroad - and now leads the way once more, just as it did when the English were the only professionals (leading us to call their national team 'los pross', an old-school nickname still used by some). I don't have a problem with that. We owe them a debt of gratitude for inventing the sport and, as for Spain, who had dominated European competition in recent years, maybe this chance for reflection will do us good.
An English week with a Spanish touch...
In a way, though, we're also part of this semana inglesa. After all, Arsenal have a Spanish coach (the grandson of the man who was Real Unión's keeper in our league's first ever season), several Spaniards play for both Europa League finalists, and Eden Hazard's exploits were savoured by Madridistas almost as if he had been in white. As for the Champions League, our capital is hosting the final, providing a stadium and backdrop well worthy of such an event. I for one welcome this feast of English football, a game that has caught up where it needed but retains its age-old values, of which arguably the most important is that the club always comes before the individual. That's not always the case here. It's something we can learn from them.