With the future of Catalonia unclear, we look at what independence would mean for one of the world's most powerful soccer clubs.
Violent clashes with the Spanish police followed Catalonia's October 1st independence referendum, during which an estimated 90% of voters chose secession over remaining a part of The Kingdom of Spain. While these results seem to show that Catalans favor independence by a huge majority, they were impossible to independently verify. This is due, in part, to the use of paper ballots but can more accurately be attributed to Madrid's active attempts to delegitimize the independence movement. This past Friday, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy escalated things a bit further when he sacked the entirety of Catalonia's parliament. Their police chief and regional president were also removed from office. To throw another wrench into this increasingly complex situation, a unionist rally was hosted in Barcelona yesterday. Officials in Madrid say that the rally drew close to one million people, while police estimates in Barcelona indicate that there were around 300,000 in attendance, showcasing the divide between the two regions. The tensions are mounting. Both sides are aware of the wide-reaching political and economic implications attached to Catalan independence. This is an issue that effects not just Spain but the entire European Union.
In the middle of this conflict, is Barcelona F.C., one of the world's most powerful sports organizations. Barcelona and their rival Real Madrid are by far the two most recognizable teams in Spain's La Liga, and their rivalry is one that more than adequately symbolizes Spain's tumultuous relationship with Catalonia. During the Spanish Civil War, Catalonia fought on the side of the 2nd Spanish Republic. After Francisco Franco defeated the Republicans and consolidated power in 1939, he stripped Catalonia of its autonomy. During his reign, Franco tried to suppress Catalonia's unique identity and often times resorted to torture and murder in order to accomplish his political goals in the region. He also used his political power to support his favorite soccer team, Real Madrid. In response to this, Catalans began heading to Barcelona F.C. games in droves, unceremoniously flipping Franco the bird. This is when soccer became a form protest. El Clásico was no longer just a hyped-up derby game but a symbol for the many disputes between Madrid's central government and the defiant Catalans. Though the stakes have lowered considerably since Franco's death (1975), the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona F.C. is still one of the most important rivalries in sports. That being said, La Liga president Javier Tebas told Marca. "In sport, it isn't a la carte and things must be clearly stated." "It isn't easy to have an agreement and study Spanish legislation but if they (Catalan clubs) do get that, then they will not be able to play in Spain's La Liga, but I hope it doesn't come to that." This is a pretty clear message. Catalan independence would result in Barcelona's expulsion from Spanish soccer.
So what happens if the referendum passes, and Catalonia secedes from Spain? For one, Barcelona will have to find a new league to play in. Former French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls has stated that there is already precedence for a foreign team in the French League saying in 2015, "Monaco play in Ligue 1, so why not Barcelona?" While the French Ligue 1 has expressed some interest in the club, the move would most likely be a long, bureaucratic process that could take years. There's also a chance that Barcelona could join either the Italian Serie A or the English Premier League but the path to joining those leagues is just as difficult. Arsene Wenger suggested in a press conference that Scottish teams would have precedence over Barcelona with regard to joining the EPL.
The most likely circumstance would be a revival of the Catalan league. With high-caliber teams such as Espanyol and Girona also located in Catalonia, this would probably be the easiest route for Barcelona to take. That being said, the competition would be significantly weaker than that of La Liga and the other top-flight European leagues. The market size would also be considerably smaller, significantly effecting Barcelona F.C.'s bottom line and their ability to attract high-profile athletes. The entertainment value in watching Lionel Messi decimate no-name Catalan players is pretty low. As Barcelona's soccer academy continues to have trouble, the team is relying more and more on buying top players from abroad. While there are plenty of academy players who dream of playing for Barcelona, if the team ends up in a lower-tier league, this well will run dry. On top of this, Neymar has moved on to greener pastures and Suarez has not been playing particularly well of late. The team is becoming increasingly reliant on Messi to carry them into Champions League relevance. Even if Messi remains loyal and sticks with the team following independence, he's 30 and even the best player in the world isn't immune to the effects of time. With the club's transfer window closed until January, Barcelona has to start thinking of the future and how to they will make a name for themselves without the help of La Liga. This isn't to mention the myriad complications of Catalonia registering with UEFA for Champion's League, a move that could see Barcelona having to play through several qualifying rounds in order to make it in.
With all of this in mind, Barcelona F.C. has stood firm in their support for Catalan independence, stating on their website, "FC Barcelona, in holding the utmost respect for its diverse body of members, will continue to support the will of the majority of Catalan people." A cynic might think that this support means Barcelona already has an exit strategy but regardless, it's admirable of the team to stand with Catalonia's independence vote, especially since independence all but guarantees a difficult transitional process. While Catalan independence will almost definitely hurt the club, they have stood by their fans and their community during this time and have put profit aside in the name of Catalan sovereignty. Hopefully La Liga won't be so shortsighted as to remove Barca from competition but either way, Barcelona's future is increasingly uncertain.
POPDUST Picks | Week 9
We were 9-3 last week. Just saying.
- Bills over N.Y. Jets
- Houston over Indianapolis
- Jacksonville over Cincinnati
- New Orleans over Tampa
- Oakland over Miami
- Atlanta over Carolina
- Philadelphia over Denver
- Tennessee over Baltimore
- Seattle over Washington
- Detroit over Green Bay
- Kansas City over Dallas
LOCK of the Week:
- L.A. Rams over N.Y. Giants
- San Francisco over Arizona
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.