Rugby cheers Spanish spirits on dark weekend
Harare – The Spaniards have been building a global sporting dynasty in the past few years but, on a heart-breaking weekend for them, rugby provided a ray of light that filtered through the dark cloud of gloom.
Defeat in the David Cup final, a loss in the FIFA Futsal Cup final and Fernando Alonso’s failure to close the gap on Sebastian Vettel in the Formula One’s championship at the USA Grand Prix in Texas, all pointed to uncharacteristic failures for the proud Spaniards.
But events in Windhoek, some 7 321km away from Madrid, must have cheered the spirits of those Spaniards who feel rugby is bigger than football, tennis and Formula One.
Spain overturned a 17-26 first-half deficit against Namibia at the Hage Geingob Stadium in Windhoek to win the inaugural Tri-Nations tournament, winning by 38-37.
Both teams had beaten Zimbabwe in their opening matches.
Rugby is considered a growing sporting discipline in the south-western European nation, where football, tennis and motor racing are dominant sports.
Sport analysts have noted that Spain is one of the strongest rugby playing nations in Europe, outside the big six of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy.
The Spanish sevens team is one of the core 15 members of the IRB Sevens World Series.
There are about 27 572 registered rugby players in Spain.
But even the country’s qualification for their first IRB World Cup in 1999 did not provoke the reaction of a national sporting media obsessed by football, tennis and Formula One.
Last Saturday, Namibia appeared well on their way to winning the Tri-Nations series, leading 37-35 lead after a penalty converted by flyhalf, Thenus Kotze, with regulation time up on the board.
But the host were penalised on the half-way line and Spanish flyhalf, Jaime Nave, with the last kick of the game, gave his team the match in the most dramatic of fashion.
Namibia coach, Danie Vermeulen, was understandably disappointed by the way his team lost the final.
“We are very disappointed with the loss. The game was there for the taking but silly mistakes cost us in the end,” Vermeulen was quoted saying by SuperSport.
“There are positives to take from this match, but we don’t want to become good losers.
“If the test is there for the taking, then you must take it and there are no excuses for that.
“We will have to look at that because we can't make excuses after having the match on a plate for us.”
But it was all doom and gloom for the Spaniards elsewhere on a rare off day for the global superpower.
Without Rafael Nadal, their tennis team crashed to a 2-3 defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic.
Spain were chasing their Davis Cup, and fourth in their last five years, but came-a-cropper against the feisty Czechs who won the Davis Cup for the first time since 1980.
Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic defeated Almagro in four sets 6-4, 7-6(0), 3-6, 6-3 in the fifth and final match to win the tie for his country.
The Czechs gained their revenge as Spaniards had humiliated them 5-0 in the 2009 Davis Cup final.
The Futsal World Cup also came down to a thrilling and fitting climax in a dramatic final wit Brazil edging Spain 3-2 after extra-time, in Bangkok, with Neto scoring the decisive goal 19 seconds from time.
The Brazilians appeared heading for defeat, as they trailed their opponents 1-2 with two minutes left on the clock, but they found the equaliser to force the game into extra-time.
Brazil are now unbeaten in their last 152 games, with their last defeat coming on December 8, 2005, against the Spaniards.