Monday, October 10, 2011

Spain is more blaugrana and less madridista

This morning, any madridista who bought one of their favorite newspapers, Diario AS, found a surprising headline: "El Madrid se queda solo" (Madrid are left on their own). In the cover of the newspaper, they also inform that Real Madrid gets more rejection in San Mamés (Bilbao), Reyno de Navarra (Osasuna), Anoeta (San Sebastián) and the Calderón (Atlético Madrid) than in the Camp Nou (Barcelona). They also highlight that the antibarcelonism in Madrid is bigger than the antimadridism in Barcelona. Aside this focus on Real Madrid, AS also shows that Rayo is the most appreciated club in Spain, while Sevilla gets the biggest rejection, while Valencia, Villarreal, Málaga and Granada have a good image.

All these headlines are based on a survey done by the agency Ikerfel for AS among fans of the Primera División clubs. It is also important to put the results into a context. 8 years ago, a survey done by the Generalitat (Government of Catalonia) showed that Real Madrid enjoyed more sympathies than FC Barcelona with a huge margin of a 20%. The last survey of this kind was done by CIS (the institute of sociological studies of the Government of Spain) in the year 2007 and this margin of sympathies had been reduced to 7 points. Nowadays, even though the ones who pick Barcelona over Madrid as their main favorite club is just a 1% (which is irrelevant, considering the margin of error), the difference grows to a 7% in favor of the blaugranas when it comes to secondary sympathies.

Diario AS cover - Oct 10, 2011

The survey starts focusing on sympathies, asking for the favorite club and secondary sympathies. In this aspect, we already stated that Barcelona and Real Madrid show a similar amount of fans (18% and 17% respectively). Atlético Madrid (8%), Athletic (7%), Betis (7%) and Valencia (6%) get expected results, which do not differ much from the last survey done in 2007. Back then, Real Madrid got a 32.8%, Barcelona a 25.7%, Valencia a 5.3%, Athletic a 5.1%, Atlético a 4.3% and Betis 3.3%. It is important to highlight the differences: in this new survey, the sample was the Primera División clubs while, 4 years ago, this limit did not exist.

But even with these differences, probably the most relevant fact is the growing sympathies of Barcelona as secondary option for football fans. While Real Madrid used to be the second choice of the Spanish fans back then (with Barcelona very near them), this time Barcelona appears as second or third option for the 26% of the fans of the Primera División clubs, while Real Madrid's percentage fall to a 20%. These secondary option is what makes the difference.

Popularity index.

But in football, aside the sympathies, the antipathies are usual too. There is a thin line between love and hatred and football could not be different. The bigger the club is the bigger the feelings around them are, in one way or another. The most admired clubs usually are the most hated and this is what the survey shows. Real Madrid is the most hated club by the 39% of Primera fans, while Barcelona gets the opposition of a 30%. If we add secondary hatred options (that is, eliminating local and direct rivalries), the percentage grows against Real Madrid. The 51% of the Primera División fans claim to be antimadridistas, while this percentage gets reduced to a 40% in the case of those who label themselves as antibarcelonistas. Sevilla's (30%) and Atlético's (29%) image isn't much better.

Unpopularity index.

The following part of the analysis is based on the differences among the fans of the different clubs. Based on this, Real Madrid is chosen as the club with more sympathies in 7 different stadiums (not counting the local team, of course). Some of the results are expected, like the support among the Betis fans, since both clubs share recent legends like Gordillo, Poli Rincón or Alfonso; or Racing Santander, for similar reasons, after all Gento was born in a town near Santander and both clubs have been carrying a really good relationship through the years, which includes transfers in both directions, as it shows the cases of Munitis or Canales in recent years. Other results are expected for different reasons, Real Madrid also holds sympathies in clubs of the region, like Getafe or Rayo Vallecano, since these clubs are in the historical area of influence of Real Madrid. Probably, the most unexpected is the support of the sevillistas, but the noise created by the president Del Nido seems that did not hide the big madridismo of the city of Seville.

In the case of FC Barcelona the sympathies are also expected in some cases. Barcelona gets a clear support among Athletic, Real Sociedad or Osasuna, that is, the Basque provinces. Despite there are some historical rivalries, especially with Athletic, all these clubs have something in common, their capacity to be a channel for the national aspirations of the communities they are in. Despite the historical reasons of each nationalism is different, the national feeling, either Basque or Catalan, recognize each other's identity and both definitely share similar tools to reach similar goals. In the cases of Valencia and Mallorca, FC Barcelona may seen with good eyes due to cultural reasons, since there is a common culture among Catalans, Valencian and Mallorquin people, although there is also a good share of animadversion in these regions against the so-called pan-catalanism, which is shown in the results too. Aside the socio-political links, it was also to expect the pro-barcelonisme in Gijón. Sporting and Barcelona share lots of legendary players for both clubs in the last decades: Quini, Iván Iglesias, Abelardo, Luis Enrique and now David Villa. The case of Málaga may be temporary. It is true that Barcelona has a solid base in most of Spain, including Andalusia, but these results may show the late rivalry between Málaga and Real Madrid... or maybe between Pellegrini and Mourinho.

For - against by fans of each club.

When it comes to hatred, the madridistas have it clear: they hate Barcelona with passion (97%). It is evident that the hatred goes both ways and something similar happens in Barcelona, but the results show that the antimadridismo in Barcelona is lower than the antibarcelonismo in Madrid. There is an interesting fact: Real Madrid gets more hatred among the Athletic, Real Sociedad, Osasuna and Atlético Madrid fans than among the Barça fans. In the case of the antimadridismo, there are evident cases, aside the mentioned in Barcelona. Real Madrid has been an eternal rival of clubs like Atlético Madrid or Athletic Club. The political factor has an effect in other cases, like Real Sociedad or Osasuna. But there is a growing antimadridismo in new areas. The most evident cases are: Valencia, Málaga and Sporting. Valencia used to have a really good relationship with Real Madrid, but in the late 90s, the way Real Madrid used to sign the star of Valencia, Pedja Mijatovic, broke this friendship. The cases of Málaga and Sporting probably have a lot to do with the recent events, especially with the arrival of Mourinho and his attacks on these clubs and their prestige and commitment.

In the case of the antipathies on Barcelona, aside the evident case of Real Madrid, it was easy to expect the case of Espanyol, given their centenary rivalry. Out of these evident cases, Barcelona does not enjoy the sympathies of fans of the zones of influence of the madridismo: Getafe, Rayo and Santander. Aside them, there are cases of classic antibarcelonismo in Granada, recently promoted, and the secondary antipathies that probably have something to do with political reasons, as in Seville (both clubs) and Valencia/Mallorca (where catalanism and anticatalanism is polarized).

Aside the two giants, the results show classic rivalries, mainly local or regional, like Betis-Sevilla, Athletic-Real Sociedad, Málaga-Sevilla, Valencia-Levante, Osasuna-Zaragoza; and new kind of rivalries, due to recent polemic events like Getafe-Racing (due to the Copa semifinal of a three years ago) or Mallorca-Villarreal (due to the elimination of Mallorca from the European competitions as a request of Villarreal for unpayments).

Relation sympathy/antipathy.

Mixing all this information, the picture shows that Sevilla and Real Madrid get the worst love-hatred differencial, by an important margin, while Rayo Vallecano, Málaga, Valencia and Villarreal get the best image among the Primera División fans. How can we interpret all these information?

There are several factors that have an influence when it comes to understand this new scenario. Real Madrid have traditionally been the club of Spain and they always carried this flag with pride while their international success always backed this position. On the other hand, as we already mentioned in the entry about football and nationalism, clubs like FC Barcelona and Athletic Club have traditionally been seen as representatives of their national and identity aspirations.

But in recent times, FC Barcelona rose as new power in Spain and Europe with a very particular style. It is evident that success goes along admiration. The current admiration on Barcelona is based on their domestic and international triumphs and, as a consequence of it, they gather the support that the winners use to have. But there are other factors that help to understand this support beyond success. While the main reason of hatred of Barcelona has always been the catalanism of the club, the fans of every club of Spain recognize the essential importance of the Barcelona players in the success of the Spanish national team in the last years. Despite Barcelona never rejected the catalanism in all these years, the average fans found a link with players like Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Piqué or Villa, independently if they are Catalan or not. The Spanish NT is often seen as an extension of Barcelona, not just when it comes to players, but also in the style. At the same time, the new Board of Sandro Rosell has definitely lowered the political tensions inside the club, which were much more evident with Joan Laporta. The club remained catalanist but without the noise of the Laporta era.

Pep Guardiola & José Mourinho

On the other hand, Real Madrid's prestige lost some points in the way. The lack of international and domestic success does not explain everything. Aside the lack of recent victories, the last decade had a negative effect on the perception of Real Madrid for several factors. First of all, the self-promotion of Real Madrid has been as profitable in terms of global marketing as damaging in terms of sympathies. The image of Real Madrid has been overexposed and, in some situations, has been seen as arrogant. The arrival of Florentino Pérez to Real Madrid was full of new messages, terms and symbolism. Florentino Pérez does not stop repeating that Real Madrid is the best club of the 20th century and, as evident as it is for most of the football fans, the constant bombing was often read as arrogant. In the same line goes messages as "this player was born to play in Real Madrid", often referring to players of a high level that seem to be designed for Real Madrid and not for anybody else. In the first stage of Florentino Pérez, the overdose of stars gave the team the initially positive and finally negative term of Galácticos. These Galácticos were a group of players that, in the right measure, won titles, but ended up seen as spoiled elitist stars without any kind of culture of effort. The overdose of Galácticos went along with the rise of Ronaldinho's Barcelona... a Ronaldinho who was labeled as too ugly to play in Real Madrid by Florentino Pérez. A joke that ended up being a nightmare for Real Madrid.

But the definitive impact has been the arrival of José Mourinho. The Portuguese coach has built big walls around Real Madrid in a prepared and constant propaganda in order to create tension in and out Real Madrid. This tension had the wished effects. While the messages got more tense, the union of the madridismo around the new project grew, but also the disaffection of the rest of the clubs. The internal message insists that the envy on the best club of the World is the reason of it, but this new slogan lose weight because of two reasons: Real Madrid never needed to repeat how good they are to be admired and, most importantly, it has been repeated in times of failures. This internal union is based in the constant search of enemies, some of them classic, but also some new. The press, the referees and even smaller rivals like Sporting or Málaga have been the victims of cheap attacks, like the one on Preciado doubting about the commitment of Sporting to beat Barcelona or the one on Pellegrini, when Mourinho claimed that he would not end up in a club like Málaga, suggesting the low level of the new club of his predecessor in the Bernabéu. To all these facts, the arrogant attitude of players like Cristiano Ronaldo, often victim of the booing in most of the stadiums of Spain, or Pepe, seen as a butcher, do not help much to the cause of the image. In fact, one could say that the level of tension created by a player, a manager or a president has a direct link with antipathies, and this is how the negative image of Sevilla is directly related with the noise and provocative attitude of their president, José María Del Nido.

José María Del Nido, Sevilla president

Surprisingly, all these events ended up moving the roots of support on the two giants. Barcelona gets the respect and the sypathies left by Real Madrid in their new policies. The success of Barcelona and/or the Spanish NT, the soft-catalanism, the arrogant Florentinismo and the policies of tension of Mourinho made Spain more barcelonista and less madridista. As weird as it sounds.

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