Just days before the Euro 2012 quarter-final clash between France and Spain, Canal Plus France has renewed its attack on Spanish sports stars with another satirical puppet sketch that once again throws a cloaked accusation of doping at some of Spain's leading sportsmen.
The latest sketch likens cyclist Alberto Contador, basketball player Pau Gasol, footballer ═ker Casillas and tennis player Rafa Nadal to the Marvel comic superheroes "The Avengers".
The puppets, characterised as Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, who have never before lost in battle, suddenly have to take on new and formidable adversaries in the shape of the aforementioned sports stars, who are allegedly "impossible" to beat because they "take stuff". In one scene, Nadal, who recently won his seventh Roland Garros title, is seen burying his tennis ball deep into the chest of one of the superheroes, and the sketch closes with the line: "No-one had prepared them to take on the Spaniards".
Social networks have been quick to pick up on this latest "humorous" attack by the French. Within hours of the programme being broadcast, a photo of Spain goalie Casillas writing the following letter : "Dear French people, on Saturday, the flesh and bone versions will be turning up for our meeting. Don't be late. Regards, ═ker" was already circulating on Twitter and Facebook.
Shortly after Alberto Contador's controversial doping charges, the French TV station came out with their first version of the "humorous" dig at successful Spanish sportsmen. Rafa Nadal was shown drinking a bottle of water, then filling his car with his own urine, before taking off from the petrol station at high speed only to be stopped for speeding by the French police.
This first sketch, with its closing gambit "Spanish players don't win by chance" caused great consternation in Spain, with politicians hitting out at the implied slur on the country's sports stars. This new sketch has got sentiments running high once again, with many Spaniards hoping for appropriate revenge in Saturday night's Euro 2012 quarter-final.