By Adedapo Adesanya
The scheduled match between Spanish football giants – Barcelona and Real Madrid, has been rescheduled due to heightened political tensions and protests in Catalonia, with the game now moved to December 7.
The Spanish La Liga clash known as ‘El Clasico’ is between two of Spain’s most successful clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona and the first leg of the 2019/2020 season games due to take place on Saturday 26 October at the Camp Nou has been changed following protests.
Nine Catalan separatist leaders were jailed on Monday, October 14, for sentences that run between nine and 13 years for their role in an illegal referendum and a failed bid for independence which sparked clashes across the region.
Also, the El Prat airport in Barcelona was temporarily closed on Tuesday due to the rising tensions, with almost 100 people reported to have been arrested since Monday.
It was reported that nearly 200 officers have been injured as a result of escalating violence, and this led the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF to propose moving the tie.
After consultation with government officials, it was concluded that it would be unsafe to hold the game at this crucial time, hence, the selected date of Saturday, December 7 which would involve also moving both sides’ Copa del Rey fixtures currently scheduled for that day as well.
Sport analysts noted that La Liga are against the idea of staging the El Clasico fixture during midweek as it would likely harm viewing figures and have a knock-on effect to television rights holders.
Reacting to Monday’s verdict, Barcelona released a statement which read: “In the same way that the preventive prison sentence didn’t help to resolve the conflict, neither will the prison sentence given today, because prison is not the solution.
“The resolution of the conflict in Catalonia must come exclusively from political dialogue.”
However, the club’s coach, Ernesto Valverde was confident that the game could proceed as scheduled.
“This game can perfectly take place – it’s a good opportunity to play it with normalcy,” he said on Thursday. “it’s a good opportunity to do so against all those that are pessimistic.
“There are nine days left to play, and the normal thing would be to play in our stadium. If you told me the game was today or tomorrow, then fine. But we still have time. It’s an important game for people to see. It should be played under normal circumstances.” He added.
After the Catalan independence referendum in 2017, Barcelona played a league match against Las Palmas behind closed doors in protest, after their request for a postponement was rejected.
This weekend, they will play away at Eibar in La Liga on Saturday and planned to make the 589-kilometre journey by bus to avoid demonstrations at El Prat airport.
Real Madrid will also play on Saturday, away at Real Mallorca.
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