October 2 – Barcelona’s league game against Las Palmas was played behind closed doors at the 11th hour at the weekend as the Catalan referendum dispute spilled over into football.
Lionel Messi struck twice in a 3-0 win but the game was overshadowed by the political climate surrounding the independence campaign deemed illegal by the Spanish government.
Barca’s request for the match to be postponed amid local unrest during was rejected so instead, faced with the prospect of being docked points, Barca announced just 20 minutes before the scheduled kick-off that they would go ahead with the game but behind closed doors.
Various reports throughout the day claimed that the game had been called off and as kickoff drew closer the uncertainty increased with thousands of fans outside the ground.
Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said the club made the decision to play in an empty stadium so that “the whole world can see the situation in Catalonia.”
“It’s the lack of freedom of expression which worries us, it upsets us a lot,” he told beIN SPORTS. “But, in place of calling the game off, we’ve decided to play it in an exceptional manner: without fans. And we want to give our support to everyone.
“The security was guaranteed. The local police had confirmed that. We tried to call the game off with La Liga, but when they said no we decided to play without supporters so that the whole world can see the situation in Catalonia and how we are suffering.”
Barca players show Catalan support
Barcelona’s players showed their support for the referendum and an independent Catalonia emerging from the tunnel at the Nou Camp wearing a yellow-and-red-striped club training shirt – the colours of the Estelada flag associated with Catalan independence.
Separately, defender Gerard Pique has said he will quit international football before the World Cup if his support for Catalonia’s independence referendum is deemed a problem.
Pique has played 91 times for Spain but has been a strong supporter of the referendum. “If the board really thinks I’m a problem, I will take a step back and leave the national team before 2018,” he said.
“There are many people in Spain who disagree with what happened today and believe in democracy.”
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