FC Barcelona manager Luis Enrique steered clear of the Catalan flag controversy that threatens to overshadow his side’s Champions League clash with Belarusian champions FC BATE Borisov at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.
FC Barcelona were fined 40,000 Euros by UEFA after a few Esteladas or unofficial pro-Catalonia flags were spotted inside the Camp Nou during the Champions League clash with Bayer Leverkusen a month ago.
FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu slammed UEFA’s verdict and threatened to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. “We are being sanctioned for expressing legitimate feelings that should not be punished in a modern and democratic society,” Bartomeu said. “We are proud of defending freedom of expression, that’s what makes us stronger. Enough is enough.”
Over the years, the Estelada . has been routinely flown inside the Camp Nou by several pro-Catalonia Barcelona fans who view it as a symbol of expression of their Catalan identity.
Luis Enrique steers clear of Estelada controversy
Speaking to the media ahead of his side’s Champions League clash with BATE Borisov, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique declined to entertain any politically loaded questions.
“Apart from what might happen before the game, we know the fans are with us, in the sporting sense,” Enrique was quoted as saying by ESPN FC.
“We are going out tomorrow to play a game of football, to win the game, to make the next round. That is most important for the players, and I suppose for Barca’s fans too.”
FC Barcelona will virtually qualify for the knockout phase of the competition if they beat the Belarusian champions on Wednesday.
“That is a very positive sign for us, it shows how we have done in this group,” said the Asturian. “We are starting the return round of games. We know the difficulties we had [at BATE] and will try and play a good game, a complete game, and get the victory, which is our clear objective to remain atop the group.”
Enrique also went on to brush aside the Halloween controversy while adding, “In my time there was not Halloween, there was Carnaval. And it might be good for some of you [journalists] to dress up too. If there’s any more questions about Saturday don’t bother to take the microphone.”
Estelada controversy threatens to further sour relations between UEFA and FC Barcelona
The controversy over the Estaladas being flown inside the Camp Nou threatens to further sour the already strained relations between FC Barcelona and European football’s governing body UEFA. FC Barcelona were hit by a UEFA backed FIFA transfer ban for “breaching rules on signing international players under the age of 18” last year.
Earlier this year, the club were hit with a 30,000 Euros fine by UEFA as punishment for the actions of some of its fans who flew pro-Catalonia Estelada fans in the Champions League final against Juventus in Berlin.
FC Barcelona have been threatened with expulsion from the Spanish La Liga if Catalonia manages to gain independence from Spain. The latest controversy over the Catalan flag threatens to overshadow all the action on the field in the coming days.