Sat, Nov 29, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Spanish officials see red over national anthem gaffe


Spain was left fuming and demanding a government apology after the wrong Spanish anthem was played at yesterday's opening ceremony for the Davis Cup tennis final against Australia.

Juan Antonio Gomez-Angulo, the secretary of state for sport in Spain, demanded an official apology after the embarrassing mix-up in which the anthem of Spain's first republic, the Himno de Riego, was played instead of the current national anthem.

The current anthem was then played as the players -- Juan Carlos Ferrero and Lleyton Hewitt -- walked out on to court at Rod Laver Arena for the opening singles match of the final. Hewitt won the match 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2.

Tennis Australia said the correct Spanish anthem, plus Australia's anthem, would be repeated before today's doubles match and also tomorrow.

Gomez-Angulo, who was in the stadium when the anthem was played, later suggested the Spanish players may have considered not playing had the mistake not been corrected.

He said it was "an offense to the Spanish delegation and to the Spanish nation," adding: "We cannot trivialize the national anthem of any nation and, of course, I will take my complaint further.""

Officials apologized courtside after the error was realized, he said.

Tennis Australia later released a letter of apology it had sent to the president of the Spanish tennis federation, Augustin Pujol Niubo.

Ferrero said after his loss to Hewitt in the opening match that he had tried to put the controversy out of his mind.

"I was quite surprised," said Ferrero. "I had never heard that [anthem] before.

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