Spain, La Roja, and the forging of the nation: truth or fiction?


La Roja
Spanish national team
Basque Country
national unity


The paper analyzes the role of the national team of Spain denoted by the neologism La Roja in promoting patriotic sentiments and building national unity. In a 2014 study entitled Goles y banderas. Fútbol e identidades nacionales en España, Alejandro Quiroga Fernández de Soto argues that the successes of the team in 2008-2012 (Champions of Europe in Austria and Switzerland, World Champions in South Africa and again Champions of Europe in Poland and Ukraine), brought about a patriotic revival, while La Roja itself became an integrating factor which united the Spanish regardless of political differences and distinct identities. The assertion is highly debatable for two reasons: firstly, the resurgence of the national symbols was temporary and did not occur uniformly across the country, especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country; secondly, it would be more fitting to speak of journalistic patriotism rather than actual patriotic revival within the Spanish society. The paper critically assesses the patriotic discourse rooted in the successes of La Roja in 2008-2012. Their poor performance in the last major tournaments in 2014-2018 and absence of any particular euphoria surrounding the national team confirm that the wave of flags which swept the country in the successful period was not an expression of profound, patriotic renewal of national symbols. At most, it may be argued to have been a forced attempt to boost Spanish (centralist) nationalism in the face of the increasingly active peripheral nationalisms, especially its most radical, Catalan embodiment.