Page last updated at 04:24 Asia/Manila, Sunday, 05 August 2012 PH
As her visit to the Philippines ends, I wish to express the heartiest thanks to Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain in the name of the Filipino people for her kindness in honoring us with her presence and visiting some of the many projects that have been funded by Spanish aid agencies, both public and private. The Spanish Government has been one of the most generous donors of Official Development Aid (ODA) over the last ten years. Even now when the Spanish economy is not doing as well as before, grants to some of the poorest regions such as those in Mindanao and the Bicol, continue to pour in. Spain is one of our most active partners in poverty eradication, especially in the countryside. Assistance from Spain comes in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA) as well as grants from private foundations. I am especially acquainted with the way one of the largest foundations in Spain, CODESPA, whose chairman is Prince Philip himself, the heir to the throne of Spain, has been very active helping a most successful technical training institute called Dualtech that has produced over the last thirty years more than 8,000 high-skilled electro- mechanical workers among out-of -school youth. The graduates of Dualtech have invariably found work in leading industrial companies like Lufthansa Teknik, Motorola, Ford, and other local and multinational companies.
Let me take advantage of this occasion also to congratulate Queen Sofia for the spectacular victory of the Spanish national team over Italy by 4 - 0 in the Euro Cup 2012 held in Kiev, Ukraine. The Spanish team has been called one of the greatest national teams in football history for this unique feat of being the first to successfully defend a European championship title, as well as the first team to win three consecutive major tournaments after their wins at Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup. We Filipinos should be especially grateful to the Queen for making the sacrifice of flying to our country at the very moment the match between Spain and Italy was being played. I understand that when she landed in Dubai, the game was already over. Having watched this historic game live, I can say that the Queen missed for our sake one of the most thrilling versions of the "beautiful game." Again, muchas gracias, Queen Sofia.
I would like to draw a parallel between the gauntlet that Spain had to pass to achieve this incomparable victory with the economic vicissitudes that Spain is now facing as a result of the Great Recession. It must be remembered that before this final match with Italy, the Spanish team was being criticized as being "boring", of playing selfish and tiresome keepball instead of practising aggressive attacking football. Without abandoning the tiki-taka style for which the FC Barcelona team (seven of whom comprise the 23 in the national team) has become famous, a style that shows consummate teamwork through constant passing of the ball, the Spanish footballers demonstrated that they could also play attacking football. The goals of Silva, Alba, Torres, and Mata were results of a combination of tiki-taka and the boldness to attack at the right moment.
As I have written in a previous column, I am confident that the Spanish economy will be able to weather the present crisis in no time at all. My main reason for this confidence is my appreciation of the quality of management in the private sector of Spain. In fact, the one occasion I had the great privilege of meeting both the King and Queen of Spain was in January 2007, when they were the guests of honor in the inauguration of a new building of the IESE Business School in the Pedralbes district of Barcelona. IESE, together with such other schools as ESADE (also in Barcelona) and the Instituto de Empresa (IE) in Madrid, have produced through their executive education programs some of the most competent managers in Europe.
What would be needed to complement the quality management of the private sector is greater unity among the different regions in Spain. The columnist Simon Kuper wrote in the Financial Times (June 18, 2012) that "Spain's united football team shows the (Spanish) regions way forward." Since the beginning of the 2000s, parochialism and regionalism have been on the wane in Spanish football. In Kuper's words: "Then Spain won Euro 2008. After the final, the German footballer Bastian Schweinsteirger gave an interview while behind him a conga line of Spanish footballers belted out 'Viva Espana". A day later, Xavi (a Catalan player from Barca) appeared before a Madrilene crowd yelling 'Viva Espana!" It looked rather like the symbolic end of the civil war." In Euro Cup 2012, the Captain and goalie of the Spanish team was Iker Casillas (from Real Madrid and considered the best goalie in the world). Thanks to him, the Italians could not score a single goal, despite the unquestionable talents of Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and Antonio di Natale. Among the four winning goals, only two were by Barca players. The other two were from other Spanish regions (one of them playing for Chelsea). It is to the credit of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia that they have done much to unite the whole country, despite the strong feelings of regionalism, especially in the Basque and Catolonian regions. Viva Espana. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.