The recent regional election in Catalonia, Spain resulted in pro-independence parties taking nearly two-thirds of the seats. An independent Catalonia may have repercussions for subject close to Catalan hearts – football – in the shape of FC Barcelona.
At the weekend regional elections held in Catalonia, pro-independence parties took 87 seats out of a possible 135 in the vote for the Catalan regional assembly, as reported by CNN. A referendum on Catalan independence has been promised but if Catalans vote for independence from Spain, it may leave football club, FC Barcelona, regarded by many as currently the greatest club side in the world, as a very big fish in a very small pond. The mayor of Barcelona has suggested that FC Barcelona might play in the French football league.
The consequences of an independent Catalonia for ‘Barça,’ the club of stars such as Messi, Fabregas and Xavi, were commented on by Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias, who backs Catalan secession from Spain, at the weekend. Speaking to AFP, Trias said, “We do not have the possibility of a competitive league. There would be very few teams and we would have to join another league – we could adhere to the Spanish league or perhaps the French league.”
The suggestion that FC Barcelona might play in France’s Ligue 1 is not as daft as it may at first sound. Across Europe there are a number of instances of clubs playing in ‘foreign’ football jurisdictions. In England, both Swansea City and Cardiff City, both based in Wales (a separate jurisdiction as far as FIFA is concerned), currently play in England’s Premiership and Championship respectively. In Ireland, Derry City, based in Northern Ireland, play in the Republic of Ireland’s Premier Division whilst Donegal Celtic, based in the Republic of Ireland, play in Northern Ireland’s Premiership. There’s also already a precedent in the French football leagues. AS Monaco, the only senior club in the sovereign state of Monaco, and one of the richest football clubs in France, currently play in France’s Ligue 2. Until recently, AS Monaco regularly featured in European competitions, finishing runners-up in the Champions league in 2004.
If the Barcelona supporters were anything to go by, independence for Catalonia would already be a done deal. At the recent El Clásico encounter between FC Barcelona and their great rivals Real Madrid at Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium, despite their side trailing 1-0 to Real Madrid shortly after the kick-off, Barcelona supporters didn’t seem too concerned, reports The Guardian. The reason for their nonchalance soon became apparent. As the stadium clock showed the 17th minute of the game, a ripple of anticipation went through the capacity 95,000 crowd. Then, precisely 14 seconds later, the stadium rose as one and started chanting "in-inde-independencia".
Catalans had turned one of the greatest football matches in the world into an independence rally for Catalonia. The significance was that 17 minutes and 14 seconds represented the year, 1714, Philip V of Spain defeated Catalan forces after the 14 month siege of Barcelona.
The possibility that FC Barcelona might quit the Spanish La Liga for France’s Ligue 1 was promptly red-carded by Barcelona football club president Sandro Rosell. He found it incredible that a club with FC Barcelona’s traditions could up sticks and go play in a different league. Rosell said, “There is no tradition, no rivalry with French football. To me, what the Barcelona mayor said is unbelievable.”
Historically, Catalonia has links with both France and Spain, whilst during the years of the Franco dictatorship in Spain, the club became a focus for Catalan aspirations during a period of repression, factors which no doubt prompted the mayor of Barcelona’s remarks. The mayor is quoted by website Sport.es as saying, "Many years ago, during the (Franco) dictatorship, the club was a reference point for everyone in Catalonia. It has been said that the club is more than a club, more like the national team of Catalonia. It plays well and also represents a particular style of doing things that makes us feel proud. We need that kind of thing. "