The PJ Tatler

They're About to Ban Street Soccer. In Spain.

Eurosport reports that Spain is about to restrict some political speech and ban…unauthorized soccer?

A new bill entitled ‘The Citizens’ Security Law’ has been proposed, and it contains some rather specific pieces of legislation that will find stern opposition, both domestically and at EU level.

Particularly eyebrow-raising are proposed fines of up to €600,000 for ‘disrupting electoral processes’ or unauthorised demonstrations at strategic government sites such as airports or nuclear plants; €30,000 penalties for offences such as burning the national flag; and up to €1,000 fines for insulting or threatening police officers.

These proposals seem geared solely towards limiting embarrassment to the government as it goes about its business under admittedly difficult circumstances, with the bonus of pleasing senior citizens, many of whom hark back to General Franco’s ‘legacy of order’.

But another law stands out in particular, one that is set to provoke widespread anger among the young and the old.

For anyone breaking an absurd regulation regarding ‘the practice of games or sporting activities in spaces not designed for this’ will be fined between €100 and €1000.

That’s right, the country whose street football culture has spawned the back-to-back European champions and defending World Cup winners is set to ban kickabouts.

The name of that law — “The Citizens’ Security Law” — just reeks of Orwellian statism. Barack Obama must be thinking, “How do I work that into my next speech extolling the wonders of myself and my glorious healthcare law?”

Spain only has the strongest soccer culture and probably the two best club-level teams on the planet, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Well, two of the top four if you toss Bayern Munich and Arsenal into the mix.  Soccer is Spain’s unofficial religion. So what’s going on? Eurosport says that Spain’s government is responding to its increasing unpopularity by going populist. In Spain, going populist means appealing to the leftovers of the Franco era, from which the ruling People’s Party springs, when law and order were much more strongly enforced than they are now. Conveniently, the government’s populist moves will limit what Spaniards can say against it. The soccer strike supposedly appeals to the law-and-order types who don’t like seeing kids playing in the streets.

The government’s increasing unpopularity has nothing to do with free speech or soccer, of course. It has everything to do with Spain’s lousy economy and the lack of jobs. Unemployment is above 25% and has been for quite a while, across left and right governments.

spain-unemployment

 

Spain’s overbearing green policies, its debt and its insane tax rate are contributing factors in keeping the economy hovering just above death. Ripping a page from the Obama playbook — or is Obama ripping a page from Spain’s? — the Zapatero government is creating distractions to mask the fact that it won’t free up the private sector to create jobs.

The street soccer ban is bound to backfire, though. Spain’s street soccer culture has created some of the world’s best players and, until they’re dethroned, the world’s best national soccer team. Spain has won two European championships and the 2010 World Cup. Spain expects to at least do well at the World Cup next summer, and stands a good chance of being the first European nation to win a World Cup in South America. Banning street soccer threatens to weaken future generations of the Spanish team. One of the most popular products of that culture is speaking up in protest — while he can, anyway, since political speech is about to become more scarce.

Xavi, who describes himself as ‘a player from the street’, grew up playing on a concrete square in Terrassa, a smallish city near Barcelona. The Plaza del Progreso (the irony is not lost on us) was the site of his development, and Xavi is furious that Spain’s football future is being limited.

“They’ve made it very nice, very modern, but they’ve screwed it up for kids who are like I was — they have no chance of playing football there now,” the Barcelona midfielder said.

Zapatero can mess with quite a bit, but Xavi? He’d better re-think this foolishness. Once you empower police to crack down on kids playing soccer, there’s really nothing they won’t crack down on.