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FC Barcelona bars public from match amid voting chaos

FC Barcelona bars public from match amid voting chaos
Posted at 8:08 AM, Oct 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-01 11:08:26-04

Barcelona's revered football club said it would play a potentially tense match behind closed doors on Sunday as Catalonia's disputed independence referendum descended into violence.

After an emergency board meeting, the club said it had taken the decision to ban fans from the match against Spanish club Las Palmas on Sunday after the national league refused to postpone it.

"FC Barcelona condemns the events which have taken place in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression," the club said in a statement.

"Given the exceptional nature of events, the Board of Directors have decided that the FC Barcelona first team game against Las Palmas will be played behind closed doors following the Professional Football League's refusal to postpone the game."

Before the fixture, it was clear that each club would be on opposing sides politically as well as on the field. FC Barcelona is knitted in to the fabric of the region: Its motto is "More than a club" and its players have been vocal in their support of the referendum.

Las Palmas, from the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, said it had sown a small Spanish flag into the jerseys of its players in a "moderate" gesture of support for the integrity of Spain. "Regardless of how far away the Gran Canaria Stadium is, we have never felt the least temptation to be part of a country other than this," the team said in a statement.

Barcelona's legendary player, Xavi, said: "What is happening in Barcelona is a disgrace. It's inadmissible that in a democratic country the people are not allowed to vote. I give my full support to the people who are peacefully trying to exert their right to vote."