The sound inside Camp Nou is deafening.
“Llibertat” rings out, drowning out the announcers and the blow of the ref’s whistle.
It’s more than a cheer for their team; it’s a demand for their government. And it’s lived through one of the most beautiful aspects of Barcelona: the pride in their fùtbol club.
The call for Catalan Independence dates back to the 1920’s, but the spark was lit again in 2010 when the Constitutional Court of Spain ruled that the referendum in Catalonia was unconstitutional and seized the public sector of the region.
My host brother, who’s 15, asked me if I supported Barça while we watched the first leg of the Copa de Rey quarterfinal between Espanyol and Barça.
For him, cheering for a team other than Barça, especially Real Madrid or Espanyol, is as bad as voting against Catalan Independence. And he is not alone.
Catalan nationalism is ingrained in FC Barça.
It’s not just a team. It’s a sense of pride and one of the only aspects of life where Catalonians feel they are currently victorious (first place in La Liga).
Protesting through sports is nothing new to me after watching some of my favorite American football players take a knee to protest police brutality, but the FC Barça style of protest is not so abrupt. Neither is the protest style of Catalonians.
It’s not a disturbance in the norm, but a way of life. For citizens, that means peaceful protests, wearing pins with the Catalonia flag, and tying yellow ribbons around everything.
For FC Barça players, it means winning with their style.
Watching one FC Barça game will give you all the information you need to know about the Catalan way of life. Every moment is calculated, and nothing is rushed. They wait for their moment without being impatient.
So when the possession style of fùtbol they play results in win after win after win, the fans cheer louder to ensure their national government knows that they are their own region with a distinct style and identity.
It’s difficult for me not to get swept up in the emotion of Catalonian nationalism as living in Barcelona puts me in the heart of it. If nothing else, it’s given me a new view on identity. The difference between identifying as Catalan or Spanish or European here in Barcelona is not as fluid as cheering for both a home club and national team.
So if you ever find yourself in the ear-splitting atmosphere centered on Catalonian pride that is Camp Nou, embrace it with open arms and join in with the “Messi” cheer. You won’t regret it.
The world awaits…..discover it!