Barcelona could leave La Liga, admits club president
Poriborton Desk 1:32 pm, October 03, 2017
Barcelona and its members would have to decide which football league to play in if Catalonia gained independence from Spain, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said on Monday, reports Fox News.
The Catalan club played behind closed doors at the Nou Camp on Sunday, beating Las Palmas 3-0 in La Liga, as a protest against Spain using force to prevent voters taking part in a banned referendum to decide the region's fate.
More than 840 people needed medical attention after riot police clashed with some of those attempting to participate in the controversial vote on secession, which the Spanish government had ruled illegal.
"In the case of independence, the club and the members would have to decide in which league we would play," Bartomeu told reporters after a board meeting.
"We are going through difficult and complicated moments and with respect to what could happen in the future we will take it on with calm and wisdom."
Catalan sports minister Gerard Figueras last week said Barcelona may be able to play in another country should the region achieve independence from Spain.
"In the case of independence, Catalan teams in La Liga Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona will have to decide where they want to play: in the Spanish league or a neighbouring country like Italy, France or the (English) Premier League," he said.
Bartomeu confirmed on Monday two of the club’s board members resigned in the wake of his decision to play a match behind closed doors after a violent crackdown by police of an independence referendum for Catalonia on Sunday.
“Today the board of directors has accepted the resignations of vice-president Carles Vilarrubi and the commissioner of the Barca Innovation Hub, Jordi Mones,” Bartomeu told a press conference after an extraordinary board meeting.
Vilarrubi and Mones are believed to have been in favour of Barca refusing to play, even if it meant incurring a sporting sanction of forfeiting the match against Las Palmas and being docked a further three points by La Liga.
“We perfectly understand that many of our members and fans would have preferred the option of calling off the match,” added Bartomeu.
A section of Barca fan groups had threatened a peaceful pitch invasion to interrupt the match.
“I decided to play behind closed doors because we believed that the image of a football match being played in a completely empty Camp Nou...would have been a way of showing how we utterly reject the exceptional and inadmissible situation going on in Catalonia.”
Bartomeu also confirmed that Barcelona will join a general strike called across Catalonia on Tuesday in protest at the police crackdown.
“The board of directors has decided to support the call for strike action tomorrow led by Taula per la Democracia. The club shall cease all activities for the whole day and none of the professionals or amateur teams will train.”
The vast majority of Barcelona’s stars, including five-time world player of the year Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, who has been an outspoken defender of Catalonia’s right to self-determination, wouldn’t have trained with Barca on Tuesday in any case as they are on international duty with their respective nations.
He wrote: “For a country that has known more than enough about internal conflict, October 1, 2017 will forever be a date etched in Spain’s Hall of Shame, a date from which hardly anyone emerges from with any credit at all.
“Spain, Spanish football and even Barcelona FC stand in the dock following their decision to play their league match against Las Palmas behind closed doors while the people of Barcelona faced rubber bullets and baton charges from Spain’s security services.”
Meanwhile, Gerard Pique was booed as he trained with Spain for the first time since voicing his support for Catalan independence.
The Barcelona defender has admitted he is prepared to quit the Spanish team prior to the 2018 World Cup if requested to do so by the Spanish FA.
Pique gave a tearful interview following Barcelona’s 3-0 victory over Las Palmas on Sunday in which he described playing at an empty Nou Camp as the worst experience of his professional career.
“I go to play with the (Spanish) national team because I believe in democracy and there are a lot of people in Spain who don’t agree with what has happened today,” Pique told Spanish TV.
“The person who goes with the national team, isn’t the most patriotic, you have to go and perform to your maximum. It’s not a competition of patriotism; it’s about going and giving all you can to win - that’s how I understand it.”
“If anyone in the federation believes I should not be there, I will step aside.”
Pique’s tears of sadness and the vast empty stands as his team reluctantly played were two of the defining images of a violence-scarred independence referendum in Catalonia.
Pique, an outspoken defender of the wealthy northeastern Spanish region’s right to self-determination, had been able to cast his vote in an independence referendum deemed illegal by Madrid without obstruction on Sunday morning.
Others were not so lucky as police fired rubber bullets and forced their way into activist-held polling stations to confiscate ballots, in many cases by violently removing activists.
Clashes left at least 92 people confirmed injured out of a total of 844 who needed medical attention, according to Catalan authorities.
“I am very proud of Catalonia and all its people,” an emotional Pique told reporters as tears welled up in his eyes after a routine 3-0 win over Las Palmas in an empty Camp Nou on an otherwise extraordinary day.
“Despite how much they are incited, and despite how much they (the Spanish authorities and security forces) want them to fall into the trap, they have demonstrated peacefully and sung loud and clear.”
Amid scenes of chaos and confusion outside Barca’s 99,000-capacity stadium, fans were left waiting for hours before a final decision to play behind closed doors was made less than half an hour before kick-off.
“I wouldn’t have played,” Barcelona’s most successful ever coach and current Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola told Catalan radio station Rac1.
“If in the end you play this game, you do it with the public and all the consequences.” Pique described the match, played in near-silence, as the “worst professional experience” of his career.
Barca had appealed to La Liga to postpone the game.
However, when the football and security authorities refused to do so, the club feared a potential six-point penalty if they failed to fulfil the fixture.
Bartomeu claimed the decision to play behind closed doors was one of protest at events across Catalonia, while a section of Barca fan’s groups had threatened a peaceful pitch invasion to interrupt the match.
Barcelona-based daily Sport’s front page read “Shame” above a picture of a desolate Camp Nou, and “Dignity” in defence of Pique.
The reaction of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government to the escalating crisis has drawn widespread criticism both in Spain and across the world.
Pique said Rajoy was not up to the job of leading Spain.
“He travels around the world and doesn’t even know how to speak English,” he said.
Tennis world number one Rafael Nadal said his “heart sank” at seeing the images from Catalonia as he prepared for the China Open in Beijing. He also pointed the finger at bickering politicians.
“It is the time for both sides to use their heads. For that there has to be a willingness on both sides,” said Nadal.
“It is the moment to sit down, talk and reach points of agreement so that this is not repeated.” Pique’s latest declarations have once again raised the debate over his role in the Spanish national team.
Despite forming a crucial part of the Spain sides that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, Pique is routinely jeered when representing his country.
He has already stated his intent to retire from international football after next year’s World Cup, but insisted he could step aside sooner if Spain coach Julien Lopetegui or the federation believe his political stance to be problematic.
Pique didn’t make any comment as he joined up with the Spain squad on Monday, but continued to criticise the police’s response via Twitter by posting links to videos of shocking police brutality.
Fellow World Cup winners and former Barca greats Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez also backed the right to vote on Sunday.
“These players form part of Spanish football’s great success over the past few years,” added Guardiola, who coached all three at Barca.
“Spain is an incredible country. The sport, the culture... but there is a people that wants to express itself by voting.”
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