Friday,20 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1217, (16 - 22 October 2014)
Friday,20 July, 2018
Issue 1217, (16 - 22 October 2014)

Ahram Weekly

La Liga without Barca? You must be joking

The possibility of the separation of Catalonia from Spain, which will mean eliminating Barcelona and Espanyol from the Spanish League, could change the whole landscape of European football. Ahmed Hamdy explains

Al-Ahram Weekly

With the date set for the separation referendum in the Catalonia region in Spain, 9 November, every football fan around the world is waiting to see how it will turn out. The reason for the widespread attention the referendum is getting is far from politics. The issue has been under the spotlight for the sake of one of the biggest football clubs in the world, Barcelona, and the possibility of it being eliminated from the Spanish League after decades of being one of its top teams. Barca also makes up one half of the classic rivalry with Real Madrid.

The president of the Liga de Futbol Profesional (LFP) has made it clear that it will not be possible for both Catalan teams, Barcelona and Espanyol, to play in the Spanish League anymore if Catalonia became an independent country. “Barcelona and Espanyol would not play in the Spanish League if Catalonia becomes independent for the following reason: the Sports Act has an additional provision that only one non-Spanish state can play in La Liga or official Spanish competitions, and that is Andorra.”

What that could do to European football is change the whole landscape. Barcelona’s departure from the Spanish League will have destructive consequences to the entire tournament. The whole tournament is built around the Tom and Jerry rivalry between the two mega powers of European football, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Leaving Madrid alone in the hunt for the tournament, and with the huge difference between A-Class Madrid players and all other teams, the Spanish League will turn into a one-man show, meaning losing the excitement of the competition, and also meaning Real Madrid would not have to keep all its A-Class players on the team since the competition would be no more of that calibre. Players could even lose interest in joining the royal team.

All that will lead to the Spanish League losing its value and ranking among top leagues in Europe, which is considered the second best after the English Premier League, though some people consider Spain the top league in European football.

On the other hand, moving Barcelona to the weak French League will turn it into a weekly slaughter of the French teams, save Paris St Germain. It will definitely add to the French League but still it will not have a positive effect on the Catalonian team. When the competition is not as strong, it will no longer be logical to keep all the A-Class players of Barcelona on the team. Also, as Real Madrid, players could lose interest joining the Catalans, since the French League is not that high in class.

In light of the controversy, Barça officials have made an official consultation with the French League to see if they would be allowed to play in the Ligue 1. They also consulted the Italian Federation and the English Football Association, but both countries declined on the proposal. The French are the only one welcoming the change, but they’ve made clear they would only accept Barça’s bid.

Off the pitch, it will affect the teams too, since the competition in Spain will lose the excitement factor. Selling the matches and the merchandise and the money that comes with it will surely decrease. The same with Barcelona in the French League, which despite the larger spotlight, will still attract. It will, however, remain a weak league that cannot compete with the Premier League, for example.

The once giants of Europe could also have difficult times in the European Champions League. Italian football has not yet recovered from the Calciopoli scandal up until today. The once strongest league in Europe is now out of the spotlight despite the return of Juventus to the Serie A after being downgraded to Serie B following the scandal. Big names rarely put Italian teams on their lists when considering transferring. Italian teams are also yet to claim their places back in the European Champions League, struggling every year to make it past the group stage, the same ones who were usually considered in the semi-finals blindly.

Will fans lose interest in watching Real Madrid dominate the Spanish league? And will Barcelona be as enjoyable among the French?
“No, you can’t separate Real Madrid from Barcelona. It will kill the Spanish league forever,” Ahmed Emad, a Spanish league fan, told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Spanish football means Real Madrid vs Barcelona. This is how it is and if it changes I don’t think the two teams will ever be the same.”

Yasser Said also thinks that Spanish football cannot survive without the competition between the two rivals. “It’s not just a Spanish competition; it has become a European one,” Said said. “What fuels it is the history between the two. When they play in Europe, for example, and a team beats the other, it adds extra excitement to their Liga clashes. But now you’re telling me ‘let’s watch the Classico’ once every what -- three, five or even 10 years. That would totally destroy European football before Spanish soccer,” he said.

Mohamed Rizk gave his opinion about Barcelona playing in the French Ligue 1. “That will be a joke. Barcelona will end its matches with very high scores. It will be funny and sad,” Rizk said. Being a Barcelona fan, Rizk hopes that the referendum results turn out like the Scottish with a ‘No’. “I know it’s like a dream for the people there in Catalonia to have their own independent country but for me I’m just a football fan and I know that this will destroy my team, so hopefully they will not separate.”

The news hasn’t been pleasant either for the white giants in Madrid. It looks like they too know the consequences of having their bitter rivals leave the Spanish League for good. Karim Benzema, Real Madrid’s star striker, has expressed his hopes of it not happening, saying “we need Barcelona”.

Now with Catalonia torn between its dream of independence and the destruction of its alpha team which has been their voice for so long, all eyes around the world will be watching on 9 November to see the fate of the region and European football.

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