Saturday 19 October 2019

Barcelona opponents Las Palmas to fan the flames in Catalonia with one-off shirt protest

People try to take down a banner reading
People try to take down a banner reading "More democracy" during a demonstration against independence in Catalonia Newsdesk Newsdesk

Controversy surrounding Catalonia's independence referendum looked set to spill over into Barcelona's LaLiga match against Las Palmas on Sunday.

Las Palmas said their shirts would, as a one-off statement, include an embroidered Spain flag as the visitors to the Nou Camp prepared to demonstrate their commitment to a united Spain.

Barcelona were set to include the Catalan flag, known as the Senyera, on the neck of their shirts. Vice-president Jordi Cardoner said Barcelona would also have the flag "in our hearts".

Spanish sports website reported that Barcelona had asked for the game to be postponed given the political upheaval and disturbances occurring in Catalonia.

The fixture was scheduled to begin at 3.15pm BST, and Marca said the Spanish football federation (RFEF) told Barcelona the match would go ahead providing police considered there to be no safety concerns.

The Spanish government has declared the referendum illegal and there were reports of violent clashes in the region on Sunday.

Voters are being asked whether they wish Catalonia to become an independent republic.

Las Palmas made their position clear in an emotive statement that referred back to a match between the teams on October 30, 1977. On that occasion, the previously exiled Catalan leader Josep Tarradellas appeared at the Nou Camp days after he was officially recognised by Spain's government as the region's president.

"History has once again placed Las Palmas in an exceptional situation at the Camp Nou," Las Palmas said.

The club referred to a 60-metre Senyera that was displayed on the pitch on that occasion 40 years ago, and said this Sunday's trip to Barcelona came on an "unprecedented date for our country".

"Public pronouncements in recent days, especially those of our host FC Barcelona, have made this official Liga match more than a sporting event in compliance with the calendar," said the Las Palmas statement.

"Las Palmas could have been limited to being a silent witness of this historical crossroads or to take sides. We'll take the second. We have decided to embroider in our shirt a small Spanish flag and today's date, October 1, 2017, to testify without any stridency our hope in the future of this country and in the goodwill of those who live in it, in searching for the best understanding."

The Canary Island club said they have "never felt the least temptation to be part of a country other than this".

"Today, what we do is very simple. With the Spanish flag embroidered in our kit we want to vote unequivocally in an imaginary consultation that nobody has summoned us to: we believe in the unity of Spain," the club added.

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