Football in Spain was attached to politics from the very beginning. In a country where regional nationalist movements are present centuries ago, we shouldn’t be surprised from the news that “el classico”, the long waited clash between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, won’t be played next Saturday (October 26th), but it was further delayed for early December.
Last Monday was a crucial day for the Catalan nationalist (and somewhat separatist) movement, as nine Catalan leaders were jailed for 9 to 13 years for their involvement in 2017’s independence referendum, which was declared illegal by the Spanish state. All the week there are violent clashes between the police and protestors, which took place across the city, even its airport.
FC Barcelona, a club which symbolizes Catalan nationalism although founded by a Swiss in the late 19th century, wouldn’t be silent. The club officials released a statement, where they claimed that imprisonment of the leaders is not the answer to the fallout. This was the crucial moment: Officials of La Liga, the Spanish championship, requested that next week’s “el classico” should be moved, giving two options: Either the match would be held in Madrid’s “Santiago Bernabeu” stadium or delayed for a month or so.
There was a third option too: Move the match in Argentina, at Boca Juniors’ “La Bombonera” stadium! This is of course a nod to last year’s Copa Libertadores final, when fan trouble that saw River Plate fans attack Boca’s team bus on its way to El Monumental in Buenos Aires meant the second leg of the South American club spectacle had to take place at the “Santiago Bernabeu” in Madrid.
It’s not the first time that politics bump into an “El Classico”. Most matches between two bitter rivals are full of tensions, having a nationalistic flavor after all. But the FC Barcelona fans still refer to what happened in June 19th, 1943 to their beloved team. And they wouldn’t like to face it once more.
This date was the second leg of the Copa de Generalissimo (a precursor to the modern day Copa del Rey, as then Spain was a republic under Francisco Franco) between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, held in “Estadio Chanmartin” (Santiago Bernabeu stadium wasn’t built yet). FC Barcelona had a clear 3-0 victory in the first match, where Catalan fans booed and whistled their opponents as representing Spanish nationalism.
The second leg was a disaster for FC Barcelona, as Real Madrid scored eight (!) times in the first half and had a more than huge 11-1 victory at the end, securing a place at the final. It is alleged that the Director of State Security visited the Barcelona dressing room before the match and reminded the players their “obligations” to the Republic. This was a clear threat, although covered between words. Everyone understood, though.
The players, apparently fearing for their lives as well as their families’ and intimidated by the insanely hostile atmosphere, decided to have no defense plan at all. Goalkeeper Luis Miro, one of the leading goalies of all Spain at the time, for most parts of the game was too terrified of the spectators behind his goal (specifically the objects thrown at him, and the imminent threat of a pitch invasion) to stand anywhere near his penalty box.
This incident is long gone, but not at all forgotten.Follow us on