Sunday, September 09, 2007

A car crash happening

When is a nation not a nation? When it’s Catalonia.

With exquisite timing, just a few days before Catalan national day, Spain’s football governing body has decided it will ban a friendly ‘international’ between Catalonia and the USA next month. The excuse is that it comes just a few days before a Spanish international friendly, which seems a little lame.

The row threatens to run and run and will no doubt get a good airing at the national day demos and festivities on Tuesday when the separatist hotheads will claim this as another piece of Madrid imperialism. The Catalan political elite will look on in uncomfortable silence. It’s the policy of the Generalitat to encourage Catalan national teams in all sports but they also have compromises with Madrid to keep.

But should Catalonia have its own national football team? It’s every bit as much a country as Scotland and Wales (in terms of language, devolved politics and cultural identity) who have their own teams.

The big difference of course is that there is no Great Britain team for Ryan Giggs to represent in the way that Carles Puyol and Xavi turn out for Spain (albeit with the Spanish flags on their socks neatly tucked out of view).

Logically then the Catalan players should elect to choose to play for Catalonia or Spain – as too should the Basque players (the two ‘nations’ played each other earlier this year which turned the Camp Nou into a rip-roaring cauldron of independent nationalism. And why stop there, when Spain is wholly composed of autonomous regions?

Taking this to its logical end, we’ll have 17 Spanish regions entering the major tournaments, none with a realistic chance of qualifying.

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