Spanish furious at anthem bungle

From AAP
November 28, 2003

A diplomatic row was sparked before the start of the Australia-Spain Davis Cup final today when the incorrect Spanish national anthem was played.

Furious Spanish officials stormed from the stadium amid puzzled looks from the players and rumblings in the crowd as a tune from Spain's pre-civil war republican era blared out.

Spain immediately demanded an apology and an explanation from the Australian government.

Spain's team was told not to begin play until the correct anthem, which was hastily found, was played. Tennis Australia, which admitted to the mistake, was left red-faced and issued a statement apologising for the error.

Spain's Secretary of State for Sport, Juan Antonio Gomez-Angulo, was fuming later, describing the incident as "an offence to the Spanish nation."

He yelled and gesticulated wildly from the stands during trumpet soloist James Morrison's rendition of the tune before he and Spanish ambassador Jose Baranano stormed from the stadium.

"We cannot trivialise the national anthem of any nation and of course I will take the complaint further," Gomez-Angulo said.

"We have indicated to the ITF (International Tennis Federation) that tomorrow, prior to the commencement of the doubles match when the Spanish flag is raised, the correct national anthem be played.

"I will also be protesting via Tennis Australia to the ITF for an inquiry to be carried out to find out how it came to be that the soloist was playing the wrong national anthem.

"Furthermore, I will be asking the Spanish ambassador to approach the Australian government to inquire as to how this intolerable offence could happen at the inaugural ceremony at a final of such an important event as the Davis Cup."

The gaffe was similar, but not as bad, as the incident in the prelude to the Australia-Israel World Cup soccer qualifier at Melbourne's Olympic Park in 1985 when the German national anthem was played instead of the Israeli anthem.

Gomez-Angulo said Spain's players were upset by the incident but could be more motivated to play well.

He also praised "the excellent behaviour on the part of the Spanish fans who reacted the right way when they saw us leaving the stand - with signals of protest - and we were clearly signalling our indignation."

Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard later issued a written apology for "inadvertently" playing the wrong anthem.

"We believe the error arose because a CD of world national anthems provided to the performer by Tennis Australia contained what we have subsequently been advised is not the current national anthem," Pollard said.

"Understandably, the Spanish team, officials and supporters were clearly dismayed at the error, which I repeat was unintentional and for which we unreservedly apologise.

"It is unfortunate the outstanding opening ceremony was marred by this regrettable occurrence." Pollard said.

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