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Speech by the President of the Government to the Spanish women's water polo team (Europa 2020 champions) and the Spanish men's water polo team (Europa 2020 runners-up)

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Friday 31 January 2020

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, President of the Government

Mr. President, Fernando, Members of the Federation Governing Council; clubs; Mr Minister, President of the National Sports Council, who took up her post today actually; players; welcome home to you all.

I have a problem, Fernando, and that is that I was with the handball team a short time ago; I was with the women's handball team not long ago and then with the men's team. And now, here I am with all of you. I fear I am going to repeat myself. Nonetheless, that is not really a problem insofar as that it demonstrates the good health of Spanish sport in general and Spanish team sports in particular.

It is true, as Fernando just said, that challenges do indeed stand before us; challenges we will need to overcome. Clearly, one of the things we were unable to do during the previous legislature was approve a new Sports Act. A new Sports Act that must, as you would expect, respond to the needs of contemporary athletes. A law that must also respond to what you just spoke about, the planning and firm commitment to grass-roots sport, university sport, inclusive sport and gender issues in sport.

I think it's great that we have both male and female players with us here today, and, obviously, that they have Gold and Silver medals with them. I, for one, will always say - and I look to you when I say this - that we were all on the edge of our seats for the penalties, the whole match; but something else is certainly true - and I'm sure you all know this much better than I do because you lived it in person: whenever you compete at your level, reaching a semi-final is a genuine success. Reaching the final, then, must be the game of chance that Fernando, the President, spoke of earlier.

So, I think now is the time to look forward to Tokyo and, above all, be fully aware of what you have already done because there is no question it is a huge sporting achievement but also a success in social terms, which I will come back to in a moment.

First, I want to go back to the matter of those challenges that stand before us. Something that the minister spoke to me about and something that the President of the Spanish Olympic Council was talking about; and that is to think about athletes when they leave their professional careers.

This is often a critical time for athletes; a time when they are most famous, with many young people watching them and taking inspiration from them as they strive to be what they represent today. However, when the curtain falls and their sporting careers logically come to an end, society often forgets about them. They lack the opportunities that others have obviously been working towards during their professional careers as a result of their effort and studies.

I believe we need to open our eyes to that situation and that perspective on sport. Sport of the future, sport of today, obviously, sport when the days of glory come to an end. So, that is the challenge we have to face.

I would say one thing to both the men's and women's teams: I was fortunate enough to grow up enjoying sport, obviously at a much lower level than you, but I always thought that sport - and especially team sport - is something that has a strong impact on our children's education.

Through sport, we learn values that are very difficult to learn in other areas of education. I'm not saying they are better or worse, just different. They are related to solidarity, effort, competition; they are related to knowing how to differentiate competing, and even competing with friends on the field, at any level, from being friends and supporting one another off the field.

That kind of lesson, in the times we live today - with so many things that seem vacuous, ethereal, abstract - I believe that the values you represent, and which inspire so many generations, are values that reaffirm our souls, highlight the reality of life and offer certainty in the face of the uncertainty that people will no doubt encounter during the course of their lives and as they grow. I believe, at the end of the day, that this is the greatest contribution you make to Spanish society: a legacy you leave for future generations.

One of the things I particularly like about this experience I have been repeating so often over these last few weeks is - and I also say this because I am a great fan of football and basketball - that we are opening the door to knowledge for many children about sports that, even though they are hundreds of years old, are perhaps unfortunately not as well-known as others.

I think that public television is doing a great service. I believe that public television has to keep working hard to open that door to knowledge and raise the profile of sports that are clearly not as widespread in comparison as football, mainly, because I see there is a great deal of talent that is often lost to the huge pull that football has. This is so often a shame and simply the result of not knowing first-hand what water polo and other sports can represent and bring to the table.

In short, I believe that you are a source of inspiration and we are very proud that you have won the silver and gold medals you carry around your necks today. But, above all, the greatest pride that I, as President of the Government, have and that the government represented here today by the President of the National Sports Council has is to see the source of inspiration in good values, positive values, that you represent for Spanish society and, above all, our young people.

So, if there is anything I have to say, Mr. President, players, it is thank you; thank you for the passion you generate, for the hope and inspiration you build and, above all, I encourage you to compete as you always do at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. We will be there with you all and I wish you the best of luck.

Thank you.

(Transcription edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation