WORLD

Their anthem leaves them speechless

PATRICIA TREBLE June 25 2007
WORLD

Their anthem leaves them speechless

PATRICIA TREBLE June 25 2007

Their anthem leaves them speechless

PATRICIA TREBLE

Spain’s athletes are tired of humming. While their opponents loudly sing patriotic calls to battle, Spaniards can do nothing but mumble nonsense when their wordless national anthem, La Marcha Real, plays. While the fractious nation has one of the world’s oldest national anthems, dating back to the 18th century, many Spaniards would like stirring words to accompany the snappy tune. “You can’t help but feel jealous when you hear the English, the Italians or the French roaring out their anthem all together,” mourned Spanish journalist Roberto Palomar. “The truth is anyone who has heard them before a game knows that Spain is knackered.”

So last week, at the urging of the Spanish Olympic Committee and the Spanish Football Federation, opposition leader Mariano Rajoy announced he will present a bill calling for a parliamentary committee to hand in lyrics in three months. “It would provide the words, and they should be approved by Parliament,” declared Rajoy. But although government members jumped on board— Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos even promised to belt out the new words—no one is betting on a wordy success.

A few years ago, former prime minister José Maria Aznar asked some poets and writers to tackle the problem. They failed.

Lyrics for a national melody are a tough patriotic sell at a time when many of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities are clamouring for even more independence from the central government. Spanish federalists, meanwhile, are analyzing every sign of regional loyalty.

The coach of the country’s national soccer team was grilled at a press conference over his players’ “Spanishness” last week after two Catalan soccer stars covered a logo of Spain’s flag on their socks during a match against Latvia. So it is going to be a slog finding lyrics suitable for Iberia’s ethnic communities, and their languages. Lyrics or not, at least Spain’s melody is unique. The music for Liechtenstein’s national anthem, Oben am jungen Rhein, is an exact copy of God Save the Queen. M