Catalan politicians boycott Copa del Rey final as government says no to ‘separatist’ flags

Barcelona fans fly the Estelada, but not this weekend.

A GOVERNMENT Delegation in Madrid has banned Barcelona fans from displaying the ‘Estelada’, anywhere in the Vicente Calderon stadium during the Copa del Rey final between the Catalan giants and Andalucian Europa League winners, leading a number of prominent Catalans to wash their hands of the tie.

The Estelada is an unofficial flag typically flown by Catalan separatists, but which also tends to feature prominently in Barcelona matches, and the Madrid authorities have decided to apply article 2.1 of the Law on Sports, which prohibits the display of symbols that “incite, foment or help violent or terrorist behavior.”

Naturally, the news has received short shrift in Catalunya, with the club lodging an appeal as figures including Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau publically refusing to attend the game, while Joan Tarda, spokesman for the left-wing Catalan nationalist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya in congress, urged the club to boycott the final.

Blaugranas club president Josep Maria Bartomeu does intend to be at the game, repeating his standard line that he does not consider his role to be political, while former president Joan Laporta, who never shuns an opportunity to put the boot in, suggested that Bartomeu should display solidarity “for national dignity” and watch the game in the stand with fans.

The club’s appeal insists on fans’ rights to ideological freedom, and calls attention to a recent report by the National Anti-Violence Commission which contained a nine-page list of all symbols outlawed at football matches, including many flags, which did not include the Estelada.

An administrative court in Madrid will make an “urgent” decision on the appeal on Friday May 20, with the final between La Liga champions Barca and cup specialists Sevilla, who between them have won 34 titles in the last decade, taking place on Sunday May 22.

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