Fans give Raúl web push
Grassroots site begs Spain's coach to bring ex-captain back.
10 January 2008
MADRID - "Let's put an end to this useless internal squabbling and unite to win the European Cup," reads the website www.raulseleccion.com. "And let's vote online so that those in charge of the national team realise that Raúl is an important national figure that we must protect, and who makes Spain a team."
The purpose of the fan-based website is clear: to persuade Spain coach Luis Aragonés to reinstate the veteran to the national team for the Euro 2008 tournament next summer. Raúl has not seen international action since he was briskly substituted during Spain's 2006 World Cup second-round exit against France.
Although Raúl himself appears confident that his strong play at Real this season will put him back in Aragonés' good graces, the coach has been unwavering in his refusal to reopen the book on the Real captain, despite attempts by fans, the Spanish Soccer Federation, the media and a consortium of players to convince him otherwise.
The reason may be that the ageing Raúl (at 30) doesn't seem to fit into Aragónes' new strategy, which includes youngsters such as Andrés Iniesta, Cesc and David Silva in a five-man midfield, and uses a single powerful striker - not an ideal fit for a skinny scrapper like Raúl.
In an emotional plea, the website - pushing 67,000 hits as of yesterday - highlights that Raúl has racked up the most international goals in his country's history with 44 in 102 games, has been decisive in defining Spanish soccer, and is the most emblematic on-and-off field leader and national hero. The dissenting voices - present, although lacking the vocal strength of the Raúlites - feel that while some of the above may be true, maintaining Spain's present groove may require that the old guard make way for the new.
One voice of dissent that did ring out yesterday was that of former Spain coach Javier Clemente: "There is a group of morons that are making noise over Raúl, but tomorrow it will be something else. Regarding Spanish soccer, we're in no way free from idiots," he said.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / KELLY RAMUNDO 2008]
Subject: Spanish news