Football and Spanish Identities in the Twenty-First Century

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This paper challenges the traditional academic studies that suggest the Spanish national team, the Selección, lacked popular support at the beginning of the twenty-first century, as it was associated with defeat and underachievement. By analysing TV audiences, opinion polls and media discourses, this paper shows that the Selección was hugely important in the creation and dissemination of Spanish national narratives, well before the team became internationally successful. The victories in the 2008 and 2012 Euros and the 2010 World Cup have transformed the narratives about Spain. The titles resulted in a sort of “patriotic obesity” which included the reclamation of Spanish symbols and the consolidation of a narrative of success. Paradoxically, the transformation of the Selección into one of the best teams in the world coincided with a brutal economic crisis that acted as a sort of “diet” for recently inflated Spanish patriotic pride.