The relationship between Sport and Nationalism is by no means a new one. This topic has been widely discussed in this blog and I even think that Spanish football was discussed recently. I noticed a couple of news items in ‘Marca’, the first Spanish sports newspaper, which I found rather curious.
You may find the first one [in Spanish] here. It is entitled ‘The [Spanish] anthem will sound like an aircraft flying at low height’. The article says that the Spanish national anthem will be played before the match at 120 decibels, presumably to silence the whistling and shouting from Barça supporters. It is stated that this level of sound might even be dangerous for the crowd’s ears.
The organisers obviously fear the same whistles and boos that welcomed the Spanish anthem two years ago, when Barça played Bilbao in the final, and many Catalans and Basques expressed their rejection to the Spanish national tune. You may check a video here.
However, tomorrow Barça is not playing Bilbao but Real Madrid, in another edition of ‘El Clásico’, this time in the Spanish Cup Final, and Marca reports that ‘Madrid supporters want to fill the stadium with Spanish flags‘. The news article argues that Madrid supporters’ associations have been using social networks to encourage fans to bring Spanish flags to the stadium in order to counterattack a most plausible rejection to the Spanish anthem by the Catalans.
Hence, the football rivalry will be complemented by a political/national rivalry tomorrow. It is curious how easily the match has been politicised, especially because it normally is the press from Madrid who calls for a complete separation between sport and politics when the Spanish national team plays. Further, there is an implicit assumption that all Barça supporters are Catalan and nationalist, which is not accurate at all. However, are sports identities that different from national identities? If Barça fans see their rivals waving Spanish flags, they might wave Catalan flags instead, even if their are not nationalists, just to attach a symbol to the rivalry. If this is the case, tomorrow the stadium might be split in two halves: one with Catalan and blaugrana flags supporting Barça and the other with Spanish flags supporting Real Madrid. This definitely would be the closest thing to a Catalonia v Spain football match, a rivalry nonetheless that goes far beyond sports. We shall see it tomorrow night, at 9pm.