Monday 23 September 2019

Barcelona vs Las Palmas goes ahead behind closed doors amid Catalan referendum clashes

Today's game is in serious doubt due to the protests. Getty
Today's game is in serious doubt due to the protests. Getty

Barcelona's La Liga match against Las Palmas will go ahead behind closed doors, the club confirmed amid the controversial referendum on Catalonia's independence on Sunday.

Barcelona club officials met earlier today to decide whether the game at the Camp Nou Stadium should go ahead after clashes left hundreds of people injured as Spanish authorities continued to try to halt the vote.

The club said the game would go ahead in an empty Nou Camp because league officials refused to cancel the match, leaving thousands of fans outside.

Confusion had reigned ahead of the planned 3.15pm BST kick-off, but Barcelona confirmed the decision with under 30 minutes before the match started.

Earlier, Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, one of the most outspoken players defending the referendum, called Sunday's incidents "shameful."

Before casting his vote, he said on Twitter that "together we are unstoppable defending democracy."

He added: "This is a shame, the images speak for themselves."

Several people were injured Sunday after riot police smashed their way into polling stations and fired rubber bullets at protesters outside a Barcelona polling station.

Las Palmas said it would show its support for a unified Spain by adding a Spanish flag to the shirts that the team was going to wear against Barcelona.

The Canary Islands club said that Sunday's match had become more than a sporting event, especially because of the recent statements by Barcelona expressing its support for the referendum.

Las Palmas said the club will not limit itself to being a "quiet witness at an historic crossroads." It said that by wearing the flag it will be showing its unequivocal support for a "united Spain."

The club noted that even though it is based far from the mainland, it "never felt the slightest temptation to become another country."

"We are doing this to show the world that we are hurt by what is happening," the club said in its statement.

Barcelona has openly backed the referendum and criticized Spanish authorities trying to impede the vote that Spain's government considers illegal because questions of state should involve all Spaniards, not just those in one region.

Barcelona's Camp Nou, Europe's largest stadium with a capacity of nearly 100,000, is often used as a rallying point for Catalan nationalists.

The Catalan soccer federation canceled all local games organised by the federation, most of them involving youth squads and lower divisions.

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