By Dermot Corrigan,
writing imagining in Madrid
While the recently growing calls for Catalan independence have led to a number of very tricky questions for politicians at local, national and European levels to ponder, they have - more importantly of course - also caused football fans to scratch their heads and wonder about the possibles issues that would arise. Along with the proposal of no more Barca-Real Madrid clásicos in La Liga, there was the idea of a Catalan national side taking part in the World Cup or European Championships and (quite likely) meeting the rump Spain team in the latter stages.
For many football watchers, this might actually be a good thing, given Spain’s dominance of international football (at senior and underage levels) over the past six years. La Roja’s ability to easily beat everyone else has become so predictable that some have grown to see current international football as boring and not worth watching. That viewpoint is a bit extreme, but even those who like watching Spain play can see the problems their untouchable excellence is causing. Coach Vicente del Bosque lamented recently that he could not find a place for Chelsea attacker Juan Mata, maybe the most in-form player in the Premier League, in his 23 man squad. “We have a problem of quantity not quality,” he said. This got us to thinking…
It does seem that the time is now ripe to establish a new competition, making use of the great wealth of talent being produced within Spain’s (current) borders, by forming new representative teams along more regional lines. While seeing Barcelona icon Xavi Hernández and Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas overcome their club rivalries to pull together in the same national team has become a common sight, the idea of Xavi lining up for Catalonia against Andrés Iniesta in a Spain shirt needs a bit of time to get your head around. But it is then actually pretty exciting. Go a bit further along the same line, by giving all Spain’s other regions / nations their own teams, and you soon get Catalonia’s Gerard Piqué marking Asturias’s David Villa and Andalucia’s Sergio Ramos clattering into the Basque Country’s Xabi Alonso.
The strength and widespread interest in such a potential new competition can be taken for granted. Remembering Jonathan Wilson’s SI.com made-up tournament to determine the best club side ever, A Football Report decided to hold an eight team tournament, with two groups of four, and the top two teams in each then progressing to the semi-finals. Players could only be born within today’s Spanish national border and must represent the team of their birthplace (as decided by Marca’s excellently encylopaedic Guía de La Liga 2013).