Barcelona to play behind closed doors amid Catalan independence referendum violence

The clash between the Catalan giants and Las Palmas has become steeped in politics as voters and police clash throughout the region
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Barcelona's game with Las Palmas on Sunday will be played behind closed doors due to the violent clashes going on around Catalunya amid their unofficial independence referendum vote.

Videos of police beating citizens in the street emerged on Twitter as those around the region attempted to cast their ballots in a vote that the Spanish government has declared illegal. 

The issues throughout the region have caused concern over the game at Camp Nou and, less than an hour before the game was scheduled to kick off, the gates had not been opened to let fans in after Barca requested the match be called off for safety reasons.

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Although the club have the support of the Catalan police and it seemed that the game was indeed to be postponed, the situation changed once again after Ernesto Valverde named a starting XI and players emerged to warm up.

The Catalan Football Federation (FCF) had already cancelled all games in the fourth tier, and regional and amateur games, but the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) demanded the game at Camp Nou go ahead.

A statement released by Barcelona reads: 

“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.

“Given the exceptional nature of the 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.”

After weeks of tension which consisted of Spanish police raiding Catalan government offices - drawing criticism from Barcelona and leading to former star Olegeur branding the country a militarised state - the controversy increased even further on Sunday.

Gerard Pique cast his vote in the referendum and did so with pride, tweeting a picture of him with his ballot and the message: "I have already voted. Together we are unstoppable in defending democracy."

However, Las Palmas took things to another level and promised to ensure that the anti-Catalan independence voice would be present in the game.

Sunday's visitors from the Canary Islands courted controversy by revealing that their players would take to the field with a Spanish flag embroidered on their jerseys to show their disdain for the vote.

“Today, Las Palmas pay a visit to Camp Nou, on an unprecedented date for our country, on the day that the Catalan government has set a referendum outside the Spanish legal framework," a statement read.

“The public pronouncements in recent days, especially from Barcelona, ​have turned this Liga match into something more than a sporting event that complies with the fixture list.

“Today, what we are doing is very simple. With the Spanish flag embroidered on our shirts, we want to vote unequivocally in this imaginary consultation, to which no-one has summoned us, that we believe in the unity of Spain."

If the notion that sports and politics do not mix has been questioned in recent months as United States president Donald Trump leads a heated conflict with the National Football League and its players, the Spanish and Catalans have completely refuted it.