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Spain's principled victory lifts old hearts

 I'm old and when it comes to sports writing I'm "old school."

I believe that big sporting events should be mined for their wider meaning, they should be made into metaphors for our present moment in history. That's why I am so pleased about Spain's victory in the World Cup ... and a little disappointed in the writing about it in the British and American press.

The off the ball commentary was mostly about South Africa. The "can they do it without crime and chaos" pieces at the start of the tournament were condescending and just short of racist. I mean South Africa has plenty of problems but it is self-evidently modern in a way that some other states on the African continent are not. It has a more effective electoral system than some countries I can think of. None of its post-apartheid presidential elections had to be decided by an unelected Supreme Court ... unlike some countries with high crime rates I can think of.

The post-World Cup stuff has been about — heaven help us, Paul the bloody Octopus — and also how great SA was and how lousy the football was and what that says about pampered, overpaid players. But really, most of the overpaid players had just come off an eight-month long European season ... and they looked it. There is something to meditate on in that fact but I'm old school and I want to lift my sights onto a higher metaphorical plane.

Spain's victory lifted my heart because it was done the right way. In the final against Holland, in the face of the most appalling provocation, Spain stuck to playing football the way it was meant to be played and triumphed.

It is not easy for highly trained athletes to do this. Four years ago, Italy provoked France to the edge of endurance and then France's captain and totemic figure Zinedine Zidane snapped and head butted his Italian tormentor Marco Mazeratti. He was sent off and his team lost.

In Sunday's final Spain was subjected to far worse by the Dutch. Gabi Alonso nearly had his sternum crushed by a karate kick by Nigel De Jong that if it had been three inches higher probably would have snapped his neck. Andres Iniesta was subjected to the kind of leg whipping and direct assault on his knees that has long been banned in the NFL. It would have been understandable if one of the Spanish players tried to break Arjen Robben's leg. Understandable but wrong.

In any case, Spain kept their cool and courage and stuck to their uncynical game plan focused on playing the ball forward and looking to score.

Holland took the short term, do whatever it takes even if you break the rules approach beloved of shadow bankers and short-sellers everywhere. Spain won.

Here's the metaphor: In a time when rule breakers have all the advantages; when people who are already phenomenally rich game the law in much the same way as the Dutch gamed the referee — what was he going to do? show a couple of red cards in the final? — When people who try to do things the right way find themselves thrown out of work by short-term thinking managers, small businesses are unable to get finance because banks are oriented towards generating money for their bonuses. In short when we stand on the precipice of economic catastrophe because people get no reward for living the right way, Spain's victory shines out. Be courageous, play your game, shrug off the cheap shots, eyes on the prize and you can win.

Although it helps if you have Iker Casillas in goal and Cesc Fabregas waiting to come off the bench and feed Iniesta perfectly for the winner.

But you take my meaning. I told you I was old school. I think the glow of the Spanish victory will last at least another day or two.