Commentary

Barcelona shows its solidarity for Catalonia independence vote in wake of violent crackdown

Politics have hung over Spanish soccer for decades, dating back to the Civil War in the 1930s, but they have never been more on display in the modern era than on Sunday when La Liga's seventh round coincided with Catalonia’s independence vote.

"Unbeaten and untied Barcelona, which backed the referendum, was scheduled to play Las Palmas from the Canary Islands but requested that the game be postponed after the Guardia Civil, the Spanish police who had been a symbol of tyranny during the Franco era, tried to block voting and injured hundreds of Catalans in a violent crackdown of the vote the Spanish government deemed illegal. (More than 2 million Catalans voted by a margin of 10-1 in favor of independence.) 

The Spanish league refused Barcelona's request and threatened to penalize it if it didn't play its game as scheduled. Barca chose to play and won, 3-0, to open up a five-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Barcelona played the game behind closed doors, its slogan "Més que un club” ("more than a club") visible on the empty seats of the Camp Nou stadium in images broadcast around the world.  It made the decision just 25 minutes before kickoff with thousands of fans waiting outside the Camp Nou.

Barcelona players showed their support, wearing training shirts in the yellow-and-red colors of the Estelada flag associated with Catalan independence. (Their opponents were firmly in the Spain camp, wearing shirts with the Spanish flag embroidered on them to show their support for Spanish unity.)

But it was not an easy decision to play -- two club vice presidents quit in protest -- and then play without their fans.

“Today was my worst experience as a professional,” said Barcelona defender Gerard Pique. “It was a tough day. I am and I feel Catalan, and I’ve never felt prouder of the people of Catalonia.”

The Barcelona-born Pique, the most vocal supporter of the Catalan movement on Barca, cried as he talked about the violence. After the game, he left to join the Spanish national team for its World Cup qualifiers, further putting him in the middle of the political conflict.

Pique, who has been jeered at Spanish national team games for his position on Catalonia, said he wanted to continue to play for the national team -- "There are many people in Spain who disagree with what happened today and believe in democracy" -- but added that he'd retire if Barcelona thought his participation was a problem.

Many Barca players are off to join their national teams -- Lionel Messi's Argentine is in a desperate struggle to qualify for the World Cup from South America -- but Barcelona declared that all its players -- down to its youth teams that include Americans Konrad De La Fuente and Ben Lederman -- will not train on Tuesday in support of the regional "Table for Democracy" strike.

Girona, promoted to La Liga for the first time in 2017, also suspended practice for Tuesday, as did Espanyol, which as its name suggests has been historically pro-Spain.
4 comments about "Barcelona shows its solidarity for Catalonia independence vote in wake of violent crackdown".
  1. Mariano Torres from U1ST SPORTS, October 3, 2017 at 12:27 p.m.

    You don’t have any idea about what’s going on in my country. Not a clue. The only truth in this shameful article is the name of the writer, I guess …


    Guardia Civil is the most prestigious Security Force in Spain, much more credible than the propagandist you are taking as a source. They were under attack (mob mockery, insults, and aggressions) since early morning, and they were professional enough to use the force only when that’s inevitable.


    The Referendum was absolutely illegal and illegitimate. Catalans (both Government and population) knew it and even so they went on with it challenging the Spanish Government and  Constitution, plus all the Sentences by the High Courts. Anyone knowing a little bit of Spain’s history and current situation knows it.


    How can you give legitimacy to that travesty that happened on Sunday ?  People voting as many times as they wanted, with no ID, Voting ballots brought from home, no guarantees, or supervision, plastic ballot boxes like Tupperwares, and you have the nerve of saying that “it went 10-1 for the Independence”. What a joke, what a clown you are for believing that …


    By the way, majority of the population didn’t “vote”.


    You have proven your big ignorance. Next time, you wash your mouth before even mentioning the Guardia Civil and the Country of Spain.

  2. Julio Gonzalez, October 3, 2017 at 9:43 p.m.

    This article is a joke. Painting such a one-sided picture can be constured as either ignorant or a propanda piece. The Catalans certainly have a lot of valid grivances agains the central government. Separtatist in the region are taking advange of this to gain favor. It is my opinion that the Spanish government should have never sent the Guardia Civil to prevent the referendum as it just inflamed tensions. If the results are not legal per the constitution, why bother? It played right into the separatist hands. Truly a stupid move. 

    As far as Pique goes, well go figure...if he doesn't feel Spanish, why play for the Spanish national team? Because that's the only way you can play in the European/World Cup? Lauguable. He should be leading by example. Or maybe, it shows how difficult this subject is for a lot of Catalans and Spaniards, and writing such simplistic articles does no-one any service.

    Let's stick to Soccer, shall we?

  3. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 5, 2017 at 4:49 p.m.

    I agree that the heavy handed response by the central government was foolish.  But why not just have a referendum like they had in Scotland?  Make the case to people why they shouldn't secede and let them vote.  If they want to go what right does the rest of Spain have to prevent them from doing so?

  4. Juan R, October 15, 2017 at 10:53 p.m.

    Mariano Torres, stop being a Castile apologist. The Guardia Civil had no right in beating protestors and confiscating ballots. They should have not been there in the first place. Rajoy f'ed this up royally, and has given more legitimacy to the Catalan separatist, though no one wins in this crazy game of chicken. They should have let the referendum go through, and if Catalonia had declared independence then just shut down the banks. The article is not a joke, it's deadly serious. Maybe Mr. Kennedy is no Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist on Spanish and Catalonian politics, but the article provides a protective from Catalonia. Sure it could have more sides in this story, but this is a soccer website. No need to apologize for Madrid, which has a history of heavy handedness.

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