MADRID – Out with feckless politicians, in with Spain's unforgettable soccer stars?
Spain's national team headed home Monday after a historic win in Euro 2012 championship final, raising spirits across a country drowning in financial woes. Their elegant 4-0 dispatching of Italy on Sunday night had some Spaniards offering grand, tongue-in-cheek designs for the athletes: They're so perfect, how about letting them run the country?
In one newspaper cartoon, coach Vicente del Bosque is surrounded by the team captain Iker Casillas and stars like Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, all dressed up in suits for a new line of work after their crushing win in Kiev.
The victory made them the first team ever to bookend a World Cup championship (2010) with two Euro Cup triumphs (2008, 2012).
"The solution to our problems: the government of prime minister Del Bosque and his ministers," read the vignette in El Mundo.
The team was to be received later Monday by King Juan Carlos, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and then snake through Madrid atop an open-air bus to bask in the adulation of tens of thousands.
As the country recovered from a national hangover of elation, pride and booze, Spaniards soaked up sweet memories of a night no one will forget. For a few hours, the realities of 25 percent unemployment, a grinding recession and a banking bailout from the European Union to the tune of up to €100 billion ($125 billion) were put aside.
Maria Jose Herraiz, a 54-year-old homemaker, was so nervous she had to listen to the game on the radio instead of watching it on TV.
"When I heard people scream 'Goal!' I would run to the TV," she said.
She called the victory marvelous, a potent shot of mood-boosting adrenalin for people sorely in need of it, but knew it would be only short term.
"It will be a sort of flower that blooms for just one day, because economic problems do not go away just because Spain wins," Herraiz said.
Her two adult children — aged 26 and 28 — are both still living at home. They are struggling on rock-bottom salaries as low as €300 ($377) a month for half-day work despite being a computer scientist and a physicist. They came home near dawn after a night of celebration, their faces painted in team colors of red and yellow.
Cristina Rivas, a 41-year-old musician, acknowledged that soccer prowess and government have nothing to do with each other but said there was something very special about those fast guys in red. She suggested that Spain's conservative government was interested only in meeting austerity goals to satisfy the country's European creditors, no matter how much it hurts the average Joe, or "Fulanito," as Spaniards would call him.
"Perhaps this team played like a team, and (the government) plays more as if they were protecting a patch of land," said Rivas.