One of the most eagerly awaited fixtures in world football - Barcelona versus Real Madrid - has now been delayed. The match, known as El Clásico, was originally scheduled to take place at the Nou Camp on Saturday October 26.
A week of violent protests has seen many parts of the city of Barcelona on fire and the decision has now been made by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to postpone the match, considered to be one of the most watched club football events in the world with an estimated 650million viewers globally.
Earlier this month, La Liga applied to the RFEF to move the game amidst the ongoing violence and disruption currently engulfing the city of Barcelona. The anger predominantly stems from the October 2017 Catalan independence referendum.
Catalonia is an autonomous region in north-east Spain, home to approximately 7.5million people and Barcelona is its capital.
Despite 90% of voters in favour of independence, the Spain Constitutional Court and former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refused to acknowledge the sanctity nor accept the legality of the referendum. Rajoy was succeeded by Pedro Sanchez after a no confidence motion in Rajoy’s cabinet in 2018.
Nine prominent pro-Catalan campaigners have now been sentenced to between nine and thirteen years for their involvement in the referendum, prompting the latest public action on the streets shortly after the decision of imprisonment. There are also calls for a new vote.
Current Manchester City gaffer Pep Guardiola has been a visible supporter of the movement. Towards the latter part of 2017, the former Barca boss could be seen adorning a yellow ribbon on his person in solidarity with imprisoned activists and politicians desiring Catalan independence and continued to wear it throughout City’s 2017/18 campaign.
Despite misgivings from the Barca gaffer Ernesto Valverde, the Spanish Football Federation have commissioned the upcoming Clásico to be moved, ideally to December (tentatively the 18th). The final decision on the new date is set to be made early next week, with a deadline of 10am on October 21 set by the RFEF.
This is not the first time FC Barcelona’s schedule has been directly affected by the protests. The Blaugrana were required to play against Getafe in an empty Camp Nou shortly after the rejection of the outcome two years ago.
El Clásico has an 115-year history, with the first match between the two sides taking place on May 13 1902. There have been 188 meetings in total, with Barcelona holding the edge with 96 wins to Real’s 92; the peerless Lionel Messi is far and away the leading goalscorer in the fixture.
Real Madrid are currently in first place in the Spanish top tier table in searching for their first title in three seasons. Barcelona, two points behind in second, have dominated the past decade, with seven league titles in the past ten seasons.