Constants for Spain’s reconquista

Half-a-dozen years after their first taste of glory, these constants are still expected to win on command.

Written by Aditya Iyer | Updated: May 15, 2014 5:54:26 pm

Jankel Schor is the grand old man of keepie-uppies, the art of juggling the ball on one’s body without letting it hit the ground. At 87, this Carioca can still keep the football in flight for a little over two hours and wishes to ‘perform’ at the Maracana during the World Cup final. In an interview, he decided to reveal the secret behind his magnetic touch.

“When playing ball, everyone fails. And failure makes people give up,” he said. “The idea is to find what you do right for a few seconds and recreate that for a minute, then a few minutes, then 30 minutes and then on command. Basically, don’t change what’s right and keep the constants going like your life depends on it.”

A set of ball players from across the Atlantic — who, incidentally, wish to perform at the Maracana on July 13 as well — will agree with Schor wholeheartedly. After plenty of heartbreaks and failures, Spain learnt to do right at the European Championships in 2008 — a fleeting few seconds of fame in the long run. So, its core was persisted with for their successful campaigns at World Cup ‘10 and then once again in Euro ‘12. Now, half-a-dozen years after their first taste of glory, these constants are still expected to win on command.

In Vincent del Bosque’s 30-man preliminary squad for the World Cup in Brazil, 11 names have lowered their necks to receive gold pendants in Spain’s record-creating Euro-World Cup-Euro run. These are, goalkeeper to strikers, Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina, Sergio Ramos, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, David Silva, Santi Cazorla, Xabi Alonso, David Villa and Fernando Torres.

Add to that list Gerard Pique, Raul Albiol, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Fernando Llorente, Juan Mata, Jesus Navas and Javi Martinez (men who made their big stage debuts at the previous World Cup and stayed on to clinch the following Euro) Spain have 18 players in Brazil who perhaps have forgotten how to lose in the red of the La Roja.

Just ask goalkeeper Reina about it, for he has won every medal there is to win with Spain without nearly having never played at all (in this golden epoch, Reina has been in goal for just one match, an inconsequential group game against Greece in 2008). Loaned out of Liverpool and national consciousness, Reina could easily have lost his Cup berth to Barcelona’s Jose Manuel Pinto or Real Madrid’s Diego Lopez, men who filled in (quite well too) for an injured Victor Valdez and out-of-favour Casillas respectively.

But he didn’t. And that is the gift of reassurance. Del Bosque of course knows all about it. As does the keepie-uppie octogenarian.

Aditya is a principal correspondent based in Delhi.

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