Barcelona to join strike over Catalonia's independence vote

AP , Monday 2 Oct 2017

Camp Nou stadium
Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Las Palmas is played at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 (AFP)

Barcelona is joining a strike to protest against the Spanish government's actions in Catalonia's independence vote. None of its professional teams will practice on Tuesday.

Barcelona said on Monday its youth teams also won't train, and the club headquarters will be closed as a reaction to government attempts to stop the referendum. Officials said more than 890 civilians and some 430 members of the police force were injured.

Girona also suspended practice on Tuesday, and Espanyol, the other Catalan club in the Spanish league, will have its players undergo physical activities behind closed doors at its training camp.

Barcelona tried to postpone its home match on Sunday during the referendum but the league denied its request, so it closed Camp Nou to spectators to send a protest message and avoid losing points and being sanctioned. It beat Las Palmas 3-0.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said the decision to play behind closed doors was one of the hardest he had to make at the club. He consulted club officials, coaches and players.

''We knew that an empty Camp Nou would send a powerful message,'' he said in a news conference on Monday. ''Everybody would be asking about what was happening in Catalonia. The game was broadcast around the world. It was an extraordinary measure for an extraordinary moment.''

Many club members didn't want the team to play at all on Sunday, but then it would forfeit the three points from the match and risk losing more points from a sanction.

Bartomeu said an empty stadium was the best way to show the club was not pleased with the incidents in Catalonia.

''The news of the suspension would last only one minute,'' Bartomeu said. ''In the end, what we did lasted for 90 minutes.

''This is why Barcelona is more than a club.''

Bartomeu avoided talking about Barcelona's future in the Spanish league if Catalonia declares independence, saying that if that happens the board of directors would discuss the situation.

The Spanish league has already said it will not be easy to make a deal to have the club stay in the league if a unilateral declaration of independence is made by Catalonia.

The majority of voters called for the region's independence, but Spain doesn't recognize the referendum as legit.

One of the main symbols of Catalonia, Barcelona has openly backed the region's rights to hold the referendum.

Defender Gerard Pique, one of the most outspoken players defending the Catalans, was in tears after the game as he talked about confrontations between voters and police. Authorities used batons and fired rubber bullets to clear protesting voters across the northeastern region.

Barcelona's employees on Monday held a 15-minute strike to condemn the violence used by authorities.

Espanyol said it will respect its employees' decision on whether to strike, while Girona said the entire club will be closed.

''The club condemns the violent and repressive actions carried out Sunday in Catalonia and shows its support and solidarity with the country's citizens and institutions,'' Girona said in a statement.

Barcelona's main squad is without some of its top players because they have joined their national teams in the international break.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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