Wednesday, July 9, 2008
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MADRID, Spain - In just seven days - from the soccer field in Austria to the lawn at Wimbledon - Spanish sports transformed itself into pure gold.
A nation rollicked after winning the European Championship June 29 with a 1-0 victory over Germany. More followed on Sunday when native son Rafael Nadal captured tennis's marquee event in an epic five-set Wimbledon slugfest against mighty Roger Federer.
Gone was all that anguish in which the national soccer team left its fans crushed. Gone was the annual exercise in disappointment at the All England Club.
A nation's sports demons were put to rest.
'There are entire centuries when a country accomplishes nothing at all, and then there are weeks like this past one in which it shatters its most deep-rooted inferiority complexes,' said Javier Romano, a columnist for the Spanish sports newspaper Marca.
It is hard to think of more unlikely combination than the soccer and tennis titles. Not because Spain has been bad at either sport, but because it has always managed to fail despite being so good.
Spain's national soccer team has overflowed with talent for years, but it had not won an international competition since 1964 - when it hosted the European Championship. There has been no shortage of Spanish tennis stars, but the country had not produced a men's Wimbledon champion since 1966 when Manuel Santana defeated Dennis Ralston.
At the time, Gen. Francisco Franco ruled Spain and the country was an economic backwater, isolated from the rest of the world since its 1930s Civil War.