Upside-down anthems and flags

Last Thursday, April 7, King Mohamed VI of Morocco received Pedro Sánchez in his palace. Seeing the image of the food, which was apparently normal, many warned of an error in protocol on the part of the African country: the Spanish flag was placed upside down. Many believe that it was not accidental, but that it is a lack of respect for Spain. This fact is in addition to many other errors of protocol in international events with Spanish symbols.



The visit to Morocco by the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, after the change of position of Spain on the geopolitical conflict in Western Sahara, triggered the alarm of many. The meeting with the king Mohammad VIwhich intended to open a new stage in the relationship between Spain and Morocco and which, according to Sánchez, is based on “permanent communication, transparency and mutual respect”, seemed to many a mockery.

Mohamed VI invited Pedro Sánchez last Thursday, April 7, to participate in the iftar, the food that breaks the Ramadan fast. Although at first glance the image seems normal and even relaxed, the detail that has flooded social networks is in the background: the flag of Spain has been placed upside down. Next to the Moroccan flag, perfectly installed, many have warned against this protocol blunder.

The journalist Khalil Mohamed Abdelaziz, an activist from Western Sahara, warns that “nothing is flippant in Morocco, let alone when it comes to political protocols”. It also ensures that “humiliation towards Spain is expressed by putting the flag upside down”. It seems that, for many, Morocco’s respect for Spain, which Sánchez took for granted, is only a fantasy.

It is not the first time that a representative of Spain, whether at the political or sporting level, has suffered some kind of protocol error in reference to country symbols. Beyond the mistakes when it comes to sounding the official anthem and instead sounding the royal march of Jose Maria Peman – Used by Francois Franco after the Civil War and considered unconstitutional – or the one that was the official anthem of the Second Spanish Republic.

Error in the Copa del Rey

Anyone can make a mistake, but when thousands of people see it and the Spanish anthem is in the middle, things change. Before the meeting between CD El Alamo of Madrid and the CD Pedroneras from Cuenca, referring to the Copa del Rey, from the sound system they played the Royal March by José María Pemán, a hymn similar to the current one, but with words, written before the Second Republic. It was created during the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera and used by Francisco Franco after the Civil War until his death.

After noticing the error, the club responded with a statement explaining the following: “Club Deportivo El Álamo and on its behalf, its president David Orgaz, wishes to publicly apologize for the ‘human error’ of our service. of communication by putting an unconstitutional anthem at the start of the game,” reads the first part of the notification.

“Our entity is governed by uniquely and exclusively sporting values, and in no case did we want to mix sport with political ideologies. We reiterate our apologies to any person or entity that may have felt offended,” the statement concluded.

CD Álamo is not the only one affected by this decision in the recent history of Spanish sport. Other world-class athletes born in this country have also been embarrassed by listening to the anthems of Spain, but these are not the current anthems: the anthem of José María Pemán or the anthem of Rafael de Riego de l era of the Second Republic.

Confusion with the Francoist anthem

Badajoz athlete Javier Cienfuegos was the last Spanish athlete to put up with this error. It all happened in August 2018 during the athletics medal presentation in Peru. Located at the top, Cienfuegos had received the gold medal in the hammer throw and was preparing to listen to the anthem with pride, but, to his surprise, the anthem of José María Pemán began to play. The error only lasted a few seconds until the organization cut the recording before it was finished.

A similar case was that experienced during the final ceremony of the Giro d’Italia 2011, by former Madrid cyclist Alberto Contador. The rider was in position 1 on the podium escorted by the Italians Michele Scarponi and Vicenzo Nibali. Everything was fine while he was wearing the “maglia rossa” (the jersey worn by the leader of the lap), but the Royal March of Pemán started to play.

It wasn’t the only time Contador suffered this type of setback. Two years earlier, in July 2009, when he was on the podium as Tour de France champion, the Spanish cyclist had to listen to the Danish anthem instead of the Spanish anthem. Upon his return to Spain, the former president of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, hummed the current anthem to him with the staff present when he arrived.

Carolina Marín, from Huelva, after proclaiming herself double world champion in Jakarta (Indonesia) in August 2015, saw a situation similar to that of Alberto Contador happen to her. The best player in the history of Spanish badminton and several times number 1 in this sport, her face was like a poem. The Badminton World Federation immediately apologized.

During the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera, the Cadiz poet José María Pemán was commissioned in 1928 to write the lyrics to the anthem, although it never became official.

Error with the Republican anthem

The case of the Davis Cup of tennis in Australia in 2003 is very notorious. Australian trumpeter James Morrison was responsible for playing the anthems. That of the oceanic country clearly sounded, but then it was the turn of the Spaniards. The trumpeter began to play the anthem of the Second Republic by Rafael de Riego while the faces of Juan Carlos Ferrero, Jordi Arrese, Carlos Moyà, Àlex Corretja and Feliciano López were surprised.

Juan Antonio Gómez Angulo, then Secretary of State for Sports, reacted quickly and with great indignation, considering the act a provocation and an offense. The Australian Tennis Federation took full responsibility for the error and apologized.

Something similar was experienced by the Spanish skeleton pilot, Ander Mirambell. After winning his second America’s Cup victory in Calgary (Canada), he had to listen to Riego’s anthem from the podium. The Barcelona athlete kept his cool despite the mistake. The organization immediately rectified and sounded the Royal March.

The “Himno de Riego” is the popular name by which the hymn sung by the flying column of Lieutenant Colonel Rafael del Riego is known after the insurrection of this soldier against King Ferdinand VII on January 1, 1820 in Las Cabezas de San Juan (Sevilla), whose text is by the Spanish nobleman, soldier, politician and historian Evaristo Fernández de San Miguel and the music by an unknown author, although some versions attribute authorship to the Spanish Romantic composer José Melchor Gomis and have been the official anthem adopted by the Second Republic.

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