The Príncipe de Asturias awards are Spain's equivalent of the Nobel Prizes, the most prestigious of decorations. Held every year in the Campoamor theater in Oviedo, designated by a 'jury' and handed out by the
Past winners include
This year's winners were the Spanish national football team, rewarded for their World Cup success but also for having won the European Championships in 2008 and for, in the words of the jury, having transmitted the "values" of sport. When the announcement was made, it was huge news. Spain's players were splashed across the cover of every newspaper in the country.
It has since become a source of controversy, a source of irritation.
The Spanish national team will collect its award in Oviedo on Friday. Only they won't. Not all of them.
Just as it appears that none of the foreign-based Spaniards are going to (although that is not yet confirmed), meaning no
Add that to Madrid's absentees -- Alonso, Ramos -- and only two of the Spain team that started the World Cup final will be there.
On the face of it, the reason is simple. Barcelona coach
The fact that Casillas is now going has made Pérez the good guy and Mourinho the man who just didn't understand. A bad guy. More importantly, it has really made Barcelona -- and Guardiola -- into proper bad guys. The sports daily
Most in Madrid and in other parts of Spain did not swallow that argument, but then they wouldn't. Echoing the suspicions,
The argument came as no surprise. There is something inevitable and, it appears, unavoidable, about it. But it is a redundant argument. It was wrong. It is wrong to portray Guardiola and, to a lesser extent, Mourinho as the bad guys. (In the sports daily
Mourinho said that his players could not attend the awards ceremony because, quite simply, they had a match the next day. He had told the club of his decision. They could have impressed upon him the significance of the awards then. They could have asked him them to release Casillas -- after all, he is only the goalkeeper and he is Spain's captain. They could have made the decision a collective one -- a club one. But they didn't. They went along with it. Only when there was an outcry -- and, the suspicious might add, the chance to portray themselves as morally superior to Barcelona -- did Pérez intervene.
As a result, Mourinho looks like the baddie. Pérez looks like the good guy. Mourinho loses face, loses his player the night before the game and loses authority. Pérez might looks like the good guy, but in fact he has undermined his coach, leaving him exposed.
But if Mourinho looks like the bad guy, that's nothing compared to the way that Guardiola looks. Yet his reason was identical to Mourinho's. The two coaches did what it is their job to do: the best for their teams. On Saturday, Madrid play Racing Santander, while Barcelona travel to Zaragoza. Guardiola is not prepared to let any of the players included in the squad travel to the awards. That opens up the opportunity for a Barcelona player or two to go after all -- if, for instance, Iniesta is rested at the weekend, he will travel to Oviedo. It also lays bare the real reason for the controversy.
Madrid and Barcelona could have played on Sunday, which would have allowed every player to make it, liberating Mourinho and Guardiola from decisions that they could hardly avoid taking and preventing them from being painted as guilty men out to undermine Spain's most prestigious awards. It would have allowed the whole debate redundant; it would have prevented the debate even emerging. It's not as if no one thought of it either: requests were made to that effect. But the requests for Sunday kick-offs were -- less than 10 days before the ceremony, when decisions were finally made over the dates of the games -- definitively denied. Not by Mourinho or Guardiola, but by the club presidents, the league and its real owners: the television.