Now 71 years of age, Spanish tenor and conductor Placido Domingo retains the fierce passion for football that he acquired as a very young boy. A dyed-in-the-wool supporter of Real Madrid, for whom he performed the club's centenary anthem, the artist has travelled to no fewer than ten of the last 11 editions of the FIFA World Cup™ and is currently thrilling in the spectacular results of La Roja under Vicente del Bosque.
Still visibly buoyant after La Selección stormed to the UEFA EURO 2012 crown in the final in Kiev, Placido visited the Home of FIFA in Zurich, met with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and also took the time to speak to FIFA.com. On the agenda were possible similarities between football and opera, the strengths of this sensational Spanish squad and a dream for the future: beating Brazil to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
FIFA.com: Once again we meet following scenes of Spanish glory. How are you feeling after yet another major title for La Roja?
Placido Domingo: Of course I’m feeling very happy and proud. This is a wonderful team, and they’ve proved that again and again over the last few years.
The result aside, which part of the final did you find the most stirring?
The national anthems were very moving. When the Ukrainian choir broke into the Italian anthem, everyone in the crowd joined in and it was marvellous. It’s a shame that the Spanish anthem doesn’t have words, as people could only hum along to it. The only one who sang lyrics to it was me, as I made up words to sing to myself, but I can’t tell you what they are right now! (laughs)
So, would you like to add lyrics to the anthem then?
Of course. Sport brings us all together whatever differences we might have, as proved by the fact that 20 million people [in Spain], around half the country, were following our games on TV. There are some very intellectual people who would be extraordinarily well-qualified to work on some lyrics. And of course I wasn’t referring to myself. It’d be great if it could be in place by the World Cup in Brazil, as there are still two years left.
The Spanish fans have passionately embraced these title celebrations. Are football spectators very different to those you find at the opera?
It’s true, they’ve thrown themselves into it with a tremendous amount of passion. The only difference I’d say is that, in the opera, when there’s a tragedy then the entire audience feels it. Whereas in football a defeat is only a tragedy for half the people in the stadium, while the other half are celebrating victory! (laughs)
If you could tag this Spanish squad with an opera-style title, what would it be?
(Thinks carefully) I’d title it El milagro ha llegado (The miracle that came true). I’ll be honest with you, Argentina 1978 aside, I’ve been to every World Cup since Mexico 1970. I’ve always been there and I was always worried that I’d go my whole life without seeing Spain become world champions. That’s why, after I first saw this team start to come together, I was tremendously excited about the future.
At what point did you realise Spain were on the verge of a golden era?
This team deserved to have won something a while back, though they didn’t manage it for a variety of unfortunate reasons. But when the EURO in Austria came around I could see the miracle looming on the horizon. And this squad has a lot of young players, so the successes can keep coming. I remember being extremely nervous but also strangely sure (about Spain’s chances) before the World Cup in South Africa. I told myself that we had a chance and that’s how it proved. Now we’ve gone on to win another EURO, which has never been achieved before.
Have you spoken to any of the players recently?
Yes, I have. I spoke to Iker Casillas the other day and he told me the worst thing is that “one day we’re going to lose”. I told him that’s the way things are, that you can’t always win, but they’ve got the opportunity to go down in history. Spain not only have a very strong team, but they’ve got lads that are taking giant strides in the game, such as Jordi Alba and Juan Mata, who will also both be at the Olympic Football Tournament. There are loads of guys under the age of 20 that have a huge amount of potential. You can win or lose, you never know what’ll happen, but defeats aren’t always the end of the world. In South Africa for example we kicked off the World Cup by losing to Switzerland, which hit us like an ice-cold shower, but we all know how that story ended.
Finally, we’d love to know how much it means, for a football fan like yourself, for Spain to have beaten so many quality sides on the way to these titles?
It’s means a lot! We beat Germany to win the EURO in Austria (in 2008), the Netherlands in Johannesburg (in 2010) and Italy in Kiev. All that’s left now is to beat Brazil in Brazil (in 2014). That’d be a dream quartet for every Spanish fan!