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Spain family a winning formula

Published: Saturday 30 June 2012, 17.00CET
Vicente del Bosque's trust in his players and the extended family of the Spain squad are assets that have not gone unnoticed by Graham Hunter over the last month.
by Graham Hunter
from Kyiv
 
 
Published: Saturday 30 June 2012, 17.00CET

Spain family a winning formula

Vicente del Bosque's trust in his players and the extended family of the Spain squad are assets that have not gone unnoticed by Graham Hunter over the last month.

Well, win, lose or draw on Sunday in Kyiv, it will be the end of a long, hard, but enjoyable month with the reigning European and world champions.

It's a fantastic job this one, interviewing, watching, joking with and trying to analyse a group of men like Vicente del Bosque and company. I suspect you would like to know what makes them tick, what they are like when you get over the after dinner coffee and dark chocolate mints?

The fact is that right now, like most of the staff who have been making this EURO such a success, the majority of Spain's players have one major thing on their minds – that is if you take for granted that they are now coping with the image of them lifting the Henry Delaunay Cup bursting into their heads every five or six minutes.

©Getty Images

Spain's players are close on and off the pitch

Yesterday, in the team hotel in central Kyiv, there were kids everywhere. One Spain player was lifting his little son above his head, to squeals of glee, while his daughter grasped hold of his other hand. During this tournament there have been wives, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, girlfriends and pals offering support and, more importantly, a means of escaping from the pressure of competing for and winning UEFA EURO 2012.

In fact, you could make a handy five-a-side team from the brothers of Spain's major players, and if you did then the brothers of Santi Cazorla and Pedro Rodríguez could each be mistaken for their more famous sibling – the visual resemblance is that close!

What works for this group is trust. Del Bosque trusts them to have a pint at the bar but never to go beyond moderation, to have lunch with loved ones but not to overdo the wine. The players can disappear off from basecamp, with the manager's permission, but nobody ever goes walkabout, there are no lurid headlines the following day and nothing to even hint to Del Bosque that his relaxed policies are anything other than a means of keeping these tired, talented footballers fresh.

There is a danger of thinking of these guys as performance machines. For millions of people a top-class footballer is only a guy you see on your television screen every three or four days. He's in that little box in your living room so you feel you know him and it feels like he owes you a performance every time you sit down on the couch after a draining, perhaps difficult working day.

However, I can assure you that for all their wealth and talent these are guys just like you and me. They get hurt when they lose, hurt when a newspaper headline seems cruel, lonely when they kiss goodbye to their families for a month or so. Once, when Sven Goran Eriksson decided to allow England's wives and girlfriends to be near the FIFA World Cup training camp it became a media circus and the phrase WAGs was born.

Nothing like that here, not even close. When, as I expect, Spain make history here tomorrow they will owe a debt to the travelling army of friends and relatives who keep them sane. As the mother of one of the Spain squad told me this tournament: "Football is only for a little while in their lives, families are forever." Viva España.

Last updated: 30/06/12 17.20CET

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