The British media is eulogising over the fact that over a million people crowded on to the streets of Barcelona to welcome home their triumphant European Champion League team. Another sickener for Man U they say.
True but then Man U is a football team and not a political force.
Barcelona are the visible arm of the Catalan aspiration for nationhood and when the team scores a victory be it over Real Madrid or in Europe that arm waves the flag of the separatist movement.
I think it was appropriate that the Spanish King and Prime Minister were prominent at the match in Rome to signify, like it or not, that the Barcelona side represented all of Spain.
Fireworks were let off where I live after Barcelona’s victory and cars drove through the streets honking their horns. But then as my good friend Prospero observed in Jimena Pulse – the noise in his village would have been greater had the winners been Real Madrid.
Indeed there was much anger last summer after Spain won the European Soccer Championships and that success was ignored by many in Barcelona and wider Cataluña.
Ahead of the match in Rome Sky News presenters talked to the Barcelona fans about the encounter with Man U. After talking football nearly every fan also made the point about Cataluña and its aspiration to nationhood which was completely lost on the bemused reporter prepped for mentions of Messi or Ronaldo.
When I grew up in London many moons ago the then Real Madrid team of Di Stéfano and Puskás were the kings of Europe. However I have supported Barcelona since the days of ‘El Tel’ and the British players that followed in his wake. I adore the city of Barcelona, am proud to have been to the Camp Nou but my support is that of a Briton and I do not share in the Spanish and Catalan views – which are passionate – on this soccer and political mix.
It was the legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly who said – “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
The proud Scot could well have been speaking for the people of Cataluña.