EURO 2012

Rajoy plans to cheer on Spain in Kiev final despite diplomatic boycott

Uefa opens disciplinary probe into Spanish soccer authorities over racist chants during Italy match

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (left) celebrates Spain's goal during the 1-1 tie with Italy in Gdansk.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (left) celebrates Spain's goal during the 1-1 tie with Italy in Gdansk.ALEJANDRO RUESGA

“I am going to Poland after having dealt with the situation.” Those were the words of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy the day after an agreement had been reached allowing Spain to receive an EU bailout for its banking sector, with the national soccer team starting the defense of its European title that evening. Rajoy is once again causing a stir by suggesting that he will attend the final of Euro 2012, with the big difference that this game will not be played in Gdansk but in Kiev, Ukraine, which so far during the co-hosted tournament has been the object of a boycott by EU leaders in a diplomatic protest at the imprisonment of the country’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

When Spain played its first Euro 2012 match on Ukrainian soil, the quarterfinal against France on Saturday in Donetsk, Madrid and Paris agreed beforehand that no high-ranking officials from either nation would be in the VIP box, with the Spanish ambassador in Warsaw showing up to watch from the Uefa box “just like a normal fan,” according to diplomatic sources. But Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said on Monday that, should Spain reach the final by defeating Portugal on Wednesday, Rajoy will be there.

“The final is a completely different event,” he argued. “It is a European final that just happens to be taking place on Ukrainian soil. The prime minister was at the first game and he will be at the last,” he concluded.

Tymoshenko is not as pure as the driven snow"

Popular Party (PP) leader Rajoy, whose initial bombast about having “dealt with” the bailout has been eroded by two weeks of market attacks on Spanish sovereign debt and assurance from Brussels that the rescue package will come with stringent conditions, is perhaps now more than ever in need of a boost from the country’s sporting heroes.

A day after García-Margallo made those remarks, the PP spokesman in the congressional committee on EU affairs made disparaging comments about Tymoshenko, putting the former leader, who has been imprisoned on tax-evasion charges, on the same level as current President Viktor Yanukovych. “Tymoshenko is not as pure as the driven snow, and neither is Yanukovych,” Robert Soravilla said.

Separately, Uefa has opened a disciplinary investigation into Spain’s RFEF soccer federation after racist chanting was heard coming from a group of Spanish supporters at the Spain-Italy game that Rajoy attended in Gdansk. Italy’s black forward Mario Balotelli was subjected to monkey chanting, according to several witnesses who later spoke to British newspapers after the match.

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