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Pep Guardiola 'wouldn't have played' Barcelona match behind closed doors

ESPN FC's Barcelona correspondent Samuel Marsden checks in from the Camp Nou after the club decided to play behind closed doors amid political tension in Catalonia.

Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has told RAC1 that Sunday's game against Las Palmas should never have been allowed to go ahead.

Guardiola added that if it did have to be played, then it should not have been played behind closed doors, as Barca ran out 3-0 winners in the Liga encounter.

There was uncertainty whether the game would be played in the run-up to kickoff due to clashes between police and voters on the day of the divisive referendum on Catalan independence.

Barca asked La Liga for the game to be called off, but their request was denied because there were no pressing security concerns.

Therefore, the club decided to go ahead with the game behind closed doors, with president Josep Maria Bartomeu saying an empty Camp Nou would alert the world to the political situation in Catalonia.

"I would not have played the match," Guardiola said. "And if it did have to be played, then it should not have been behind closed doors. It should have been with supporters.

"Why not let the people express themselves? In Britain, they voted on Brexit, on Scottish independence..."

Guardiola was not alone in his view that the game should have been called off, with supporters' groups and former president Joan Laporta also criticising Barca's decision to go ahead with the game.

Empty Camp Nou
Barcelona vs. Las Palmas was played in an empty Camp Nou.

There was also division among the board over whether the game should have been played, with sources telling ESPN FC that vice president Carles Vilarrubi has tended his resignation over the issue.

An emergency board meeting has been called for Monday to discuss the matter.

An emotional Gerard Pique also said there were "pros and cons" for playing the game and that he understands the fan anger at the final decision, but that he could now quit playing for Spain before next summer's World Cup finals.

However, Guardiola stressed that Catalans are not at odds with Spain, they just want their democratic right to vote on their own future.

"We don't want them to think that we dislike Spain," he added. "Spain is an incredible country, with its literature, sport, cities... But there is a need to understand that there is a population which wishes to decide its own future.

"On top of it all, we don't even know if Catalonia does or does not want to be independent. There are people that want to take the step, others that think its madness."

Las Palmas president Miguel Angel Ramirez has apologised to those who felt "offended" by his team's decision to play the game with the Spain flag on their shirts.

"We only wanted to send a wink to our country," Ramirez told Onda Cero radio. "If anyone was offended, we apologise. We don't want to be mixed in politics, we just wanted to wear our country's flag.

"We took the necessary steps and La Liga authorised us to put the flag on our jersey .The Las Palmas town hall was troubled by the move because it thought we were taking a political stance but everything has been clarified."

Las Palmas' town hall is the team sponsor and expressed its anger on Twitter after not been informed by the club of the changes to the jersey.

It read: "The Cabildo has found out through the press of UD Las Palmas' decision to have the Spain flag on its jersey. We were never consulted. We will analyze if a breach of contract has taken place."

Ramirez added: "The important thing was that the game was played. We were always going to do what La Liga said. The pity is the number of fans that travelled to Barcelona, with the financial aspect that that incurs, and that were not able to see their team. They will get their money back."

Information from Adriana Garcia was used in this report.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.


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