News Matches
Primera División

Explained: Why El Clasico was cancelled & when Barcelona vs Real Madrid will be played

11:15 BST 23/10/2019
Clasico Catalan protests
As much as it may seem separate from real life, football doesn't exist in a vacuum, particularly not in Spain

El Clasico is one of the biggest derby games in football as Spain's bitterest of rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid lock horns.

The first Clasico of the 2019-20 season was due to take place in October 2019, but political unrest in Spain has forced its postponement, causing a severe headache for the country's football administrators. 

So what exactly is happening in Barcelona and why is the Clasico game directly affected? Goal takes a look.

Why was El Clasico postponed?

The first Clasico of the 2019-20 season was postponed by the Spanish football federation (RFEF) because of security concerns. It was originally scheduled for October 26.

Mass demonstrations have been taking place across Catalunya in protest against the decision by Spanish authorities to jail nine high profile members of the Catalan independence movement.

A protest rally has been planned for October 26, the same date the meeting between Barcelona and Real Madrid was supposed to take place in Camp Nou.

The nine pro-independence individuals were jailed for "sedition" - in other words, inciting rebellion against the state. Their combined sentences amount to over 100 years of jail time.

Unfortunately, the situation has been exacerbated by violent clashes between police and protestors, with the continued civil unrest prompting fears that El Clasico could become a flashpoint.

Barcelona's international airport was occupied, causing disruption to flights, and a number of public spaces have been forced to close with protestors staging a general strike.

So it is perhaps little surprise that the biggest game in Spain's football calendar, when the eyes of the world are on Barcelona and Real Madrid, is deemed a risk.

Barcelona rejected La Liga's idea of switching the game to the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid and, despite the concerns, defended their supporters from the suggestion that they could potentially become violent.

"The Club has the utmost confidence in the civic and pacifist attitude of its members and fans who always express themselves in exemplary fashion at Camp Nou," Barca said in a statement.

Former Barcelona player and manager Pep Guardiola, who is now at the helm of Premier League champions Manchester City, has called for dialogue to resolve the issues.

"We need Europe to solve it," Guardiola told a press conference. "People don’t trust each other too much.

"My statement was clear, just sit in and talk, we have this ability to do that, to sit and talk and try to solve it."

When will Barcelona vs Real Madrid be played?

The game between Barcelona and Real Madrid was rescheduled and will now take place on December 18, 2019.

Of course, the assumption and hope is that any civic unrest that could threaten the safety of the game will have passed by then.

Interestingly, however, La Liga has disputed the decision of the Spanish football association (RFEF) and has indicated that it will explore legal options.

What is the Catalan independence movement?

The Catalan independence movement is a political push for an independent Catalan republic free from the administrative control of Spain.

While the roots of the modern-day movement stretch back to the early 20th century, the notion of Catalan separatism goes back even further.

The separatist movement gained significant momentum in the 21st century and the region's government held a referendum on the issue of independence in 2017, in defiance of the Spanish government.

That referendum, the result of which showed an overwhelming desire for independence, was quashed by Spanish forces, with violence breaking out.

Those who led the push for Catalan independence were subsequently brought to trial by the Spanish government in 2019, with nine individuals being handed sentences in jail ranging from nine to 13 years.