Sunday, October 22, 2017

Football and Politics – The Catalan Issue Puts Barcelona In Spotlight

Milos Markovic in Editorial, La Liga 2 Oct 2017

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“Més que un club”

The motto embedded in FC Barcelona’s history and words that have led the club forward to global glory have never had a more polarized meaning than today.

More than a club. More, to what extent and in what form?  Without a doubt – more than life, passion and love for Barcelona football fans who have shared undivided support for the club for decades, echoing the chants of freedom from the stands.

Violence

Sadly, however, the stance ‘more than a club’ has taken a purely political form on Sunday when Barcelona took their neutral stance on the burning issue of the Catalan independence to stand side by side with the repressed people denied an opportunity to vote on the independence referendum.

The Catalan government staged a referendum for independence which ended in blood and tears after the Spanish government branded the Catalan efforts illegal and unleashed its police forces to deal with the problem. In an attempt to stop a referendum, the state clashed with the Catalan people and left hundreds injured.

Taking Side

Ugly scenes brought back the memories of General Franco’s dictatorship and the times when the Catalan subculture was heavily suppressed and inevitably put FC Barcelona – as the banner of freedom and independent word to the world – at their focal point.

Strict measures which included the arrest of several high-rank Catalan officials and seizure of millions of voting slips saw FC Barcelona react and get themselves in the midst of this political melee.

“FC Barcelona, in remaining faithful to its historic commitment to the defence of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination, condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights,” the club statement said.

La Liga did little to help sort the hot issue with Barcelona scheduled to play Las Palmas on the day of the vote. The game could have been played a day earlier or postponed to a later date, but it ended up being a true test of Barcelona’s stance and patience.

Controversy

La Liga president and a declared Real Madrid fan Javier Tebas threw an ugly spin on the story when he decided to allow Las Palmas to have Spanish flags woven into their shirts which was the Canary Islanders’ way of supporting the country’s “unity”. 

Tebas was the man who threatened Barcelona with a six-point penalty if they decided not to play the Sunday match after the Catalan club requested the postponement due to security concerns.

The decision to hold the game behind closed doors as the fans were ushered out of the stadium was perceived as controversial, to say the least, whereas Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was quick to claim the decision was made as a protest.

And just like that, despite their strong Catalan heritage and weight placed on their backs, Barcelona decided to subdue, ultimately polarizing the football world which is left analysing both scenarios.

  • Barcelona took a step back from the political issue by playing the game and winning it 3-0 thanks to goals from Busquets and Messi, who scored a brace. La Liga leaders preserved their five-point lead in front of Sevilla but ended up hanging from the Catalan neutrality fence.
  • Barcelona could have taken the unilateral action to boycott the game under the issue that there are bigger things in life than football – thus siding with their aching fans who came to support their club despite the current situation.

The first scenario was not a unanimous decision and it ended up being the one which forced two Barcelona directors to resign.

An empty Camp Nou – intended to be the best way to protest – ended up sending a different, disappointing message to those supporting the independence and those expending the club to grab the banner and go knee dip in the (officially illegal) independence fight.

Emotions and disappointment aside – wouldn’t it be a selfish thing to ask from a football club in the first place?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Milos Markovic


Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia Sportske.net, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently Soccernews.com and Futbolgrad.com. His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.

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