Politics and Sports, Together Once Again

With all the happenings in the NFL over the past two weeks, sports fans have been smacked over the head with a reminder that politics and sports can never fully be separated.

Over the past week, those keeping close tabs elsewhere got another reminder. But at least this time, sports seem to be the calming voice in a period of turbulence.

The battle for Catalan independence shook Spain just a week ago Sunday. The residents of Catalonia, the northern portion of Spain that has deep cultural differences than the rest of Spain, voted in a referendum to leave Spain. The central government in Madrid declared the vote illegal, but it went on any way.

Police moved to stop the vote, and when all was said and done, 900 people were left injured.

Meanwhile, FC Barcelona were set to host Las Palmas at Camp Nou. The soccer club had been relatively neutral in the independence debate, but in the run up to the vote, took the stance in support of it taking place.

“FC Barcelona, in remaining faithful to its historic commitment to the defense of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination, condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights,” the club said in a statement.

On Sunday, as the vote and violence commenced throughout the region, nearly 100,000 fans waited to enter the stadium. But with less than an hour to kickoff, rumors circulated that the game would be called off due to security concerns.

Barcelona asked La Liga to postpone the match, but the request was denied.

With the eyes of the world peering down on them, the club decided to play the game behind closed doors.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu then said that the game was not being played behind closed doors due to security concerns.

“Playing this way, with the stadium empty, the Club shows its disagreement (with the decision not to postpone the game),” Bartomeu said in a club statement.

Barcalona would win the match 3-0, with Lionel Messi scoring a brace in front of 98,000 empty seats.

There was drama after the match when Gerard Pique, who voted earlier in the day, left his press conference after getting very emotional.

The Spanish defender returned to national team duty to jeers on Monday. In response, Pique said in the press he considered retiring from the international team. He later reaffirmed his dedication to the national side.

It is something that no Spanish fan would want, as Pique’s partnership with Sergio Ramos has been influential in Spain’s dominance the past decade.

The results showed that 90 percent of voters were in favor of independence. However, only 43 percent of Catalans voted.

On Monday, the Spanish Constitutional Court disrupted a session of Catalan regional parliament. Spain is now left in limbo, with both sides dug in.

As with most protests, they can come to nothing without action. One of the biggest issues for true sports fans surrounding NFL protests is that they are going on without real change occurring. By this point, fans would rather they just be done.

For Spain, this starts with both sides talking to each other, and Bartomeu wants to play his part.

“FC Barcelona, as one of the leading institutions in the country, demands a process of dialogue and negotiations to find political solutions to the situation happening in Catalonia,” Bartomeu said Thursday.

Andres Iniesta joined the club’s president with a post on Facebook, writing, “Before we do more damage to ourselves: Dialogue. Those responsible must talk. Do it for all of us. We deserve to live in peace.”

For the moment, the future of Catalonia and Spain hangs in the balance. For FC Barcelona, their future also hangs in the balance. If Catalonia breaks away, then the club’s spot in La Liga comes into question.

“In the case of independence, Catalan teams in La Liga — Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona — will have to decide where they want to play: in the Spanish league or a neighbouring country: Italy, France or the Premier League,” Catalan sports minister Gerard Figueras said.

But for now, there is just uncertainty for what will come of the actions of the past week.

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