National Dissonance: The Copa del Rey Soccer Final as a Site of Political Performance

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Founded in 1903, the Copa del Rey (King’s Cup) is Spain’s oldest national soccer/football competition. Since then, it has been held under a variety of political systems, each of which has altered the cup’s name to match the ruling head of state. These shifts in political regimes have not only affected the cup’s identity but also the competition’s meaning, as it has symbolized centralism in a nation that has historically maintained tensions between center and periphery. Because of this, fans, public figures, and the media in Spain have used the Copa del Rey Final as an opportunity to express both conformity and dissent towards their ruling government. The link between soccer and nationalism as vehicles of fan identity reveal that recent reactions to the national anthem during the Copa final are reflective of these enduring tensions within Spain. The tournament’s structure, history, and singularity in Spanish soccer have made its final an event where teams and their fans can represent their regions as they compete to be crowned ‘Champions of Spain’. This duality as a national tournament with regional symbolism lies throughout the tournament’s history and contributes to the intensity of recent debates about fan behavior at the final match.




Winkel, A. L. (2020). National Dissonance: The Copa del Rey Soccer Final as a Site of Political Performance. International Journal of the History of Sport, 37(1–2), 135–154.

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