El Clasico is postponed, but the rivalry continues.
El Clasico is postponed because of fears of civil unrest and this is about so much more than football. Here are my experiences on the ground here in Barcelona.
Here's some background for you:
There have been multiple days of protesting here in Barcelona since a decision was made by the Spanish Court. In 2017, the Government of Catalonia held a referendum for independence. Over 40% of the autonomous community of Catalonia took part in the vote, which was around 2.5 million votes. Despite the participation from the region, the referendum was declared illegal as it was never approved by the Constitutional Court of Spain.
A week or so ago, the Court declared a 9-13 year sentence for the members of the Catalan Government, for pursuing the illegal referendum. The riots that we are seeing on television, and that I am seeing with my own eyes, are the Catalan people fighting to reduce these sentences. The general conversations around all this is that the jail sentence is simply too long, and for this reason, the people are revolting against the Spanish Government.
What I've seen over the last week:
The last week has been really intense here in Barcelona. Every day this week has had a number of demonstrations in the streets of Eixample, which is close enough for me to hear helicopters and see the remnants of burnt garbage bins as I walk the streets the following day. We turn on the news every night to full coverage of all the protests. You can watch it on the Catalan or Spanish channels, to get a different perspective of everything. On TV and on the streets, you can see young people with Catalan flags wrapped around them like capes, chanting phrases in their mother tongue. Every evening, the metro has been packed with people making their way to demonstrations in Placa de Sant Juame, in front of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In fact, over 500,000 people have protested this week. Up until yesterday, it had been relatively calm, minus a few extremists who feel the need to light things on fire to make a point (refer back to burnt garbage bins). The one thing that I feel is so different to any political unrest I have witnessed, is how young the people demonstrating are. The movement, although not in its entirety, is young adults who want to see changes.
However last night something changed here. After demonstrations all day yesterday, and a large portion of Barcelona not going into work - choosing to either partake in the demonstrations, or work from home. Thousands of people walked the streets of greater Barcelona, making their way into the city with their flags. Laughing and chanting, playing music and waving their flags - what seemed relatively peaceful, turned much more violent as the sun went down.
Thankfully I did not witness any violence, but my housemates chose to attend demonstrations. By 11pm, these peaceful walking protests had turned into something much more brutal, and people were now hiding out around the city from police and laying down on the ground to avoid being hit by flash-ball guns. The police have had enough, and its clear they are taking action to get these protesters off the street.
It's now Saturday morning and everything is calm again. For the most part, it's like nothing happened. We are reading news about damage to the city and it seems that down in the depths of the city, you can still feel tension. For most, life is back to normal but the reality is we don't know what will happen next, and what decision the Spanish Court will make to end the demonstrations.
What this means for El Clasico & football:
In terms of football, this means no El Clasico in Barcelona. As I said back in my post about Catalan identity and independence, the teams represent more than just football - and with the expressions we are seeing on the streets here in Barcelona, they don't know what the El Clasico environment could summon between the Spanish and Catalan fans.
According to other sources, Barcelona's Valverde was against switching the game to the later date, saying that he is confident that the fans can hold themselves and act appropriately. Meanwhile, Zidane maintains a more mutual opinion, saying that Real Madrid will be ready to play on whichever day is decided. As protests go into their 5th day here in Barcelona, La Liga made the call and the game has been changed.
Living in a city that is so passionate about every aspect of life, from food to sports and politics, it is no surprise that football feels the ripple effect of social political discourse and demonstrations.