Spain's World Cup bonus plan 'an insult to citizens,' sparks lawmaker protest
By Harold Heckle ,AP
June 9, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
MADRID -- Lawmakers reacted with anger Saturday over the 720,000-euro (US$980,000) bonus each Spain player will get if the national team wins the World Cup in Brazil.
Captain Iker Casillas and vice-captain Xavi Hernandez signed the deal with Spain's football federation June 3 on behalf of the 23 players. It was an increase from the 600,000 euros each player received when Spain won the 2010 tournament.
Lawmakers Pablo Martin Pere and Susana Ros of the opposition Socialist party criticized the premium as "disproportionate" and "an insult to citizens" given the recent economic crisis.
Lawmaker Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida tweeted that Spain would pay "more than twice" the bonus Germany would if it wins the tournament.
"Are we twice as rich as Germany?" his tweet said.
Germany's team will receive 300,000 euros if they win, having kept the same agreement they struck when they participated in Euro 2012.
Spain's economy began to crumble in 2008 with the collapse of its bloated real-estate sector, and unemployment soared to 26.1 percent at the close of 2013.
"It's brutal," said food wholesaler Juan Burgos, 44, who had traveled from northern Navarra to sell produce in Madrid. "With so many people in Spain hurting so badly, those kind of payments don't fit with our everyday reality."
Like other countries that have the euro as their currency — such as Ireland, Portugal or Greece — Spain suffered as the government imposed harsh austerity measures in order to get its public finances into shape.
Despite stinging cutbacks, unemployment will remain above 20 percent until 2017.
Lawmaker Laia Ortiz said she would raise the matter of the squad's premium in parliament and lambasted football for being "another world" where "there is no crisis."
Each member will receive a payment of 360,000 euros if the squad reaches the final, and 180,000 euros if it makes the semifinals.
Spain attacking midfielder Juan Mata said such payments were "sometimes used against us," but that he would be playing "with the same enthusiasm I had as a child, in a bid to try and win another World Cup, without thinking about all the rest."
The 2014 World Cup winner will be awarded US$35 million by FIFA, soccer's governing body, but many say the money should go toward programs that promote the game at all levels.