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Contributing to enthusiasm from unlikely places was the fact that several of Spain’s best players are from Catalonia _ Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique. The team also included superstar Xabi Alonso, from the Basque region.

In Bilbao, Alejandro Munoz said his daughter was wearing a Spanish national team jersey on Monday, but noted that “she also has a Basque one.”

“I think the celebrations in the Basque region should be seen as normal and will improve relations between the region and Spain,” said Munoz, 48.

Other Basques, like 29-year-old Aitor Elexpuru, said Spanish politicians against greater Basque autonomy would use the win for political purposes.

“A lot people wanted Spain to win so they could show the Spanish jersey and flag to those of us who don’t feel Spanish,” he said. “They wanted Spain to win, but not for football.”

The victory, however, brought at least some Spaniards from diverse backgrounds together, meaning it accomplished “unfinished business for Spain, so it’s been good for everyone,” said Soledad Gonzalez, 51, a security guard from Madrid.

She added: “I hope that, God willing, finally, the Spanish flag means being Spanish and not being a fascist, as was the case not so long ago.”

During the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco (1939-1975), Catalans, Basques and others were forbidden from speaking their languages and it was illegal to publish books in those languages.


Griffiths reported from London. Associated Press writers Ciaran Giles, Jorge Garma, Harold Heckle, and Joseph Wilson contributed from Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao.