FC Barcelona is among the top 3 football clubs in the world in an imaginary power ranking. This status was reached in the last 10 years or so, thanks to, among others, Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi, just to simplify. FC Barcelona is a global club nowadays, a giant selling millions of T-shirt and a team incorporating the best footballer on the planet, some say the best ever. But the history and the activity of the club is deeply rooted in the catalan community and their feelings. FC Barcelona link with the social mass is, by nature, very strong. The club is not owned by anybody, it’s a “non-profit private sport association”, we read in the statute, with elections every 6 years.
This global dimension, as we said, is relatively new. As long as FC Barcelona has always been a pretty big club with fantastic players, their international appeal exploded in the last decade, forcing the club to face new challenge and manage huge amount of money.
Globalisation also forced them to take decisions where the club philosophy was at stake. And it’s pretty clear that bad decisions were made. Just one fact to reassume that: former president Sandro Rosell, the man who signed Ronaldinho and Neymar among others, is in jail since last may.
As the catalan independent movement has been growing strongly in the last 3 years, FC Barcelona, under Rosell before and under president Bartomeu now, tried to stay neutral and to avoid hurt anybody feelings. A different approach would have been probably taken when Guardiola was the manager and the club was driven by people close to independent movement, like former president Laporta. Guardiola himself never hid his political ideas and his strong commitment with the independent movement.
So as the independents grow, FC Barcelona took distance, managing itself like a global club, not local. But recent facts has forced them to take a position, and that’s when contradictions and conflicts arose. This is to summarise.
- Last October the 1st, a referendum was held in Catalunya to vote for or against independence from Spain. The referendum was not recognised by spanish government, who declared it illegal and displayed police to stop it. Police violence affected the whole day but the referendum was held. (2.5 millions voters)
- The same day FC Barcelona was due to play against Las Palmas in Liga. As far as we know by the club, they asked not to play. They were answered they would have lost the game 0-3 and 3 more points in the table. The game was played with no crowd. Two FC Barcelona high executives resigned soon after, alleging the game shouldn’t have been played.
- A general strike was declared the very next day in Catalunya and the club joined it and stayed closed the whole day.
- Guardiola, from Manchester, stated the game vs Las Palmas shouldn’t have been played, and probably wouldn’t have been under his management.
- Last monday 2 main promoters of the referendum were taken under custody and put in jail, with no bail, and accused of subversion.
- Two days after FC Barcelona had to play Olympiakos in Champions League. People from the independent movement asked to show a huge drawings to ask referendum promoters freedom, but were denied by the club, who chose to show a far more docile and balanced message of “respect, dialogue and peace”. The president and the “peace message” was booed by the crowd and his resignation was asked by sectors of the stadium. “Freedom! Freedom! was also clearly shouted by the crowd (55.000 under heavy rain, the lowest entrance of the season so far)
- Guardiola, from Manchester, dedicated his team win over Naples to the imprisoned referendum promoters.
What we are trying to say is that FC Barcelona is living in a constant struggle between the feelings of the vast majority of its people and the obligations and relationship with the spanish football association, which they are part of, and the comercial partners. This struggle between the two souls of the club has not affected the players so far, not at all. But.
But that can change if the club executives lose the people support. You have 85.000 season ticket holders in a 1.6 millions town, you don’t want them to leave the Camp Nou virtually empty anytime they want. The players wouldn’t like it. Nike wouldn’t like it. Nobody would.
And we are also suggesting that if all this would have happened a few years before, with Guardiola on the bench and Laporta as president, the club would have been far more sympathetic to the cause. But that is just an opinion.
All this would be of virtually no importance if a solution to the catalan conflict was at sight, but it’s not the case. The trains clash goes on, and they are getting closer and closer. They just slowed down a bit. Right now the next step by the spanish government looks a total financial control of the Cataluña institutions.
Can FC Barcelona stay neutral in this conflict? Will they act global or local in the next weeks? The catalan independent movement is implicitly asking FC Barcelona full support in this struggle: will they get it?
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