The Literal and Linguistic Origin of ‘La Manita’

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You may have seen the images of Gerard Pique with his hand in the air over the past couple of days. You also may have noticed Barcelona beat Real Madrid 5-1 in the Clásico on Sunday. Well, you see, these two things are linked.

‘La Manita’, literally translated as ‘the little hand’ or sometimes as ‘handful’, is the name given to a victory where the winning team scored 5 goals. It is especially attached to the Clásico and really came to prominence in the 1990s. Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ had become European Champions in 1992 and produced the total football that we’d witnessed in the teams that he’d played in during the 1970s and 80s. The Spanish identified his free-flowing style of play, which also had defensive nous, as ‘cruyffiano’. The last hurrah for Barcelona and their ‘cruyffiano’ identity came in 1994 when they battered Real Madrid 5-0.

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A hat-trick from Romario and one each for Ronald Koeman and Iván Iglesias gave the Catalan club the Clásico win at the Camp Nou. The Spanish press labelled the historic and humbling defeat as ‘La Manita’ with a finger for each goal. A year later and roles were reversed as Madrid claimed a ‘Manita’ of their own at the Bernabéu. This time it was Iván Zamorano who took home the match ball with Luis Enrique and José Amavisca also getting on the scoresheet. Again, the likes of Marca and AS paraded it as their own ‘Manita’ to celebrate.

The most famous ‘Manita’ came in Jose Mourinho’s first Clásico in charge of Los Blancos in 2010. Goals from Xavi, Pedro, Jeffrén and a brace from David Villa saw Barça run out 5-0 winners at the Camp Nou. The game wasn’t without controversy as Sergio Ramos hacked down Lionel Messi before pushing Carles Puyol in the face in the closing stages. He’d been given his marching orders and had to be escorted off the pitch by his teammates and Madrid staff. His Spanish national teammate Gerard Pique waved his hand in the air, signalling the ‘Manita’.

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This image was almost identically recreated on Sunday when Pique went to celebrate Arturo Vidal’s first goal for Barcelona and fifth goal for the ‘blaugrana’ in Julen Lopetegui’s first and last Clásico. The phrase ‘manita’ is almost exclusive to the Clásico because its arguably the best way to wind up your rival after a damaging defeat. However, it’s also been rolled out across Spain during some local derbies. For example, Sevilla fans celebrating their own ‘manita’ over Real Betis in 2012 when they were 5-1 victors at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.

The way Real Madrid are going, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of ‘La Manita’ just yet.

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