Pep Guardiola: Barca should not have played amid Catalan referendum violence

Andrew Cummings
October 4, 2017

Popular Spanish program El Dia Despues prepared an interesting video from the last game at Camp Nou between Barcelona and Las Palmas which was played behind closed doors due to security concerns over the Catalan referendum vote.

Politics have hung over Spanish soccer for decades, dating back to the Civil War in the 1930s, but they have never been more on display in the modern era than on Sunday when La Liga's seventh round coincided with Catalonia's independence vote.

Catalan officials said 840 people had been injured while trying to cast their ballots.

Barca had seen their request to have the game postponed rejected and ultimately played behind closed doors, romping to a 3-0 win amid the backdrop of violence which had struck the city when voters were assaulted by police.

Las Palmas defended resiliently in an eery Nou Camp bowl for the first 45 minutes.

But it was not an easy decision to play - two club vice presidents quit in protest - and then play without their fans. We are very affected by the situation and we decided, instead of cancelling the game, as we wanted, to play behind closed doors. That is why I must say that this was one of the most hard decisions that I have ever had to make as Barca president.

"Having reached that point, I made a decision to play behind closed doors because we believed that the image of a football match being played in a completely empty Camp Nou would have been an act of responsibility and would have been a way of showing how we utterly reject the exceptional and inadmissible situation going on around Catalonia".

In the end, an empty stadium saw Barcelona record a comfortable win.

The decision to play was not a universal one.

Las Palmas played some enterprising football at times and Oussama Tannane was a particular threat but Barca stepped up the pressure after the break.

And now a board meeting has been called where resignations are expected.

"Why don't we be more like the British, who have been democratic for many more centuries than us?"

Amid the global break, Barca have already joined a Catalonia-wide strike on Tuesday and will continue to defend the people's right to self-determination.

Barcelona star Gerard Pique's tears of sadness and the vast empty stands as his team reluctantly played were two of the defining images of a violence-scarred independence referendum in Catalonia. "Spain is an incredible country, with its literature, sport and cities". For Ayestaran, this was also a very hard afternoon but he can be pleased with the way his players responded to the issues around them.

"On top of it all, we don't even know if Catalonia does or does not want to be independent". "We will value it when we get to that moment". "We talked to the executives, the coaches and the players and we chose to play, but behind closed doors, as a protest".

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