This short video from Sid Lowe on FC Barcelona’s complex relationship with the growing Catalan independence movement is drawing kudos, and it’s very interesting to hear the tantalizingly fleeting opinions on the issue from major figures like former club president Joan Laporta and former player and coach Johan Cruyff.

Barca it seems has acted as a global magnifying glass on an issue of regional identity that other leaders of burgeoning, peaceful independence movements would love to have. Imagine for example if Quebec sovereigntists had managed to hoard the fiercely-loved (particularly by this author) Montreal Canadiens in the same way. Most involved in Catalonia’s drive to some sort of independent status within Spain however have striven to remain neutral on Barca’s specific symbolic role, which has led to some increasingly vague metaphors—”Barcelona provides the background music to independence, but not the words.”

But there are some interesting issues for Barca that go beyond the sticky questions of the very popular Spanish national team, stocked as it is with players from the Camp Nou. First, as the Barca/Real Madrid rivalry has gone global, so has the nascent and often not-very-well understood relationship between Catalonia and Francoist Spain. Barca fans from far flung locales wear Catalan flags over their replica kits, and incorrectly accuse Real Madrid supporters of backing a regime that ended in 1975. The last remaining statue from that era was removed in 2005.

This kind of thing could occur more often as the Catalan movement gather steam, particularly within the current economic situation in Spain. If the region does get its unlikely wish and manages to break away from Spain, Barca tourism will become an integral part of a regional economy. Along with that comes the inevitable question of national teams.

For now however, Barcelona will continue to navigate a tricky (a)political course…

Comments (3)

  1. It is always interesting that there lies this myth that football and politics should not mix… when it is an impossibility. Even when just 22 people (or whatever the collective number is managed) get together the kick a ball into two nets somewhere there are important political-economic questions that are always relevant.

    The collectivity within a football stadium, or any sports venue, is always a highly political creation and only in the strangest definitions of politics can someone ignore the economic and social importance of the event and relations. So to start on the premise that football and politics in most or ideal cases are not to be mixed generates surprise in this particular case and possibly acceptance of normalizing status quo generated where one might claim, “here football and politics are not mixed.”

  2. I’ve been lucky enough to get to Spain a few times now and have been to the Nou Camp — I’m not sure they go very far to distance themselves from the independence movement, nor to correct those that associate Real Madrid with Franco. In fact they pretty much bash you over the head with it at every turn.

    The economy in Catalonia is on a totally different level than the rest of Spain, which has fuelled a lot of the independence movement. As a Canadian, the issues were very similar to those that I have seen in this country. To an outsider it’s hard to understand why they would want to risk their standard of living by going it alone (and it most certainly would not be as smooth a ride as they like to suggest) when their language and culture is alive and very well and, besides, they aren’t really that different from their brothers and sisters in the rest of Spain.

    It seems like they are after the symbols of nationhood — embassies and Olympic and World Cup teams — rather than anything real because they already have the real stuff.

    Like I said…very similar to this country.

    To bring it back to football…they are right to say that the club is tied into the movement and the people in a way that few teams in the world are (as an aside it’s as interesting to me how invisible Española is — the “federalist” team does not register in the same way other second teams do — which is an interesting contrast to madrid, where Atleti is probably better supported than Real) .

    Interesting video. Thanks for sharing.

  3. As a Newbie, I am always exploring online for articles that can

    be of assistance to me. Thank you

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