Barca forced to play amidst Catalan referendum | The Daily Star
11:45 AM, October 02, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:02 PM, October 02, 2017

Barca forced to play amidst Catalan referendum

In an utterly shocking and disgraceful turn of events, FC Barcelona were forced to play the La Liga game against Las Palmas while Catalan voters went to the polling stations to vote on independence referendum.

In a show of brutal violence, the Spanish government unleashed police forces around Catalonia in a bid to stop people from voting in the referendum. Police resorted to violence as people turned out in droves and lined up on the streets while on their way to the polling stations.

Ahead of the game, reports surfaced that FC Barcelona had requested that the game be postponed. It was eventually decided 25 minutes prior to the game that the game will go ahead, with fans locked outside the ground.

"FC Barcelona condemns the events that have taken place in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression," a club statement read.

And it added: "Given the exceptional nature of events, the Board of Directors have decided that the game against Las Palmas will be played behind closed doors following the Professional Football League's refusal to postpone the game."

Apparently, Barca had handed in a request to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to postpone the game. However, the federation declined their request and Barca were notified that they would risk losing six points if the match did not go ahead.

While police tried to stop people’s fundamental right to vote with violence on the streets, Barca were forced to play a match they did not want to play.

Given the special nature of the circumstances in Catalonia, common sense should have prevailed and the game should have been postponed.

There were disagreements between Barca board members about participating in the match. Barca vice-president Carlos Vilarrubi handed in his resignation.

"Playing the game behind closed doors is inhibiting. It is a blank vote, it is to be an accomplice of those who practice indiscriminate violence," former president Joan Laporta wrote on Twitter. "Playing the game behind closed doors is to be an accomplice of those who impede the peaceful exercise of democratic rights and freedoms."

Barcelona went on to win against Las Palmas by three goals to nil but football was the not on anyone’s mind.

"It was strange, it wasn't normal," Sergio Busquets, who scored the first of the three goals said after the match. "Today's events marked the game. I don't like at all that it had to be like this.”

"We were aware what was happening. On a sporting level, though, it would have affected us a lot if we didn't play [a possible six-point penalty]. So the agreement was reached to play the game."

Messi scored twice in the 70th and the 77th minute to seal the win and maintain Barca’s perfect start to the season in La Liga.

Barca Coach Ernesto Valverde remarked: "The club tried to call the game off, but it wasn't possible. So the club wanted to make a gesture [by playing behind closed doors] due to the exceptional situation taking place in Catalonia.

"It's a decision taken by the club in a delicate moment for everyone. I know the club wanted to postpone the game, but it was not able to do so.

"We hoped that the day would pass in a calm manner, but it hasn't been the case. We hope things can be sorted out, but I'm not a politician."

During the match at the Camp Nou, the scoreboad read 'democracy'. 

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