Would Joan Laporta's FC Barcelona Survive Independence of Catalunya?

Khalid KhanCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2009

In recent days, the issue of Catalan independence again came to the fore when Joan Laporta, president of FC Barcelona, laid a wreath at the monument of Catalan nationalist Rafael Casanova on behalf of Barcelona alongside coach Pep Guardiola, another Catalan independence advocate, and many first-team members.

Laporta and the squad then went to another event in Ciutadella Park, and finally lead a march in the evening under banner 'We are a Nation, and We Want a Free State" to mark the National Day of Catalunya on the invitation of Onze de Setembre, a Catalan separatist.

Laporta has long been a Catalan nationalist and though he attended the march in his personal capacity and not as a president of Barcelona, under him the club has become politicized for association with Catalan independence sentiment.

Laporta, a co-founder of Partit per la independencia—a now defunct party to support Catalan separatism—has also never refuted that he might venture into politics after he leaves FC Barcelona in 2010.

An online poll by Barcelona’s daily Sport reflected that only 40 percent of Barça fans back Laporta on leading the march. This episode has been highly controversial in and outside Catalunya and Laporta has been immensely criticized in the media. Radio Cadena COPE even labeled him as an "independence fanatic". La Vanguardia said that Laporta "should not really mix sport and politics in this way."

Laporta has since defended his position saying that "Freedom of expression is a right and have the right to demonstrate. I come to express my national consciousness."

The scary, but presently unlikely, question for Barça fans—at home and abroad—is that what might happen to their beloved soccer club if even Catalunya becomes an independent state free from Spain?

Catalunya is small but wealthy region of only 7.3 million which is not large enough in geography and numbers to support a big league to rival La Liga or other top leagues in Europe.

In the absence of large support for independence, Barcelona will remain an emotional substitute for those favoring statehood and “the unarmed army of Catalunya” to borrow a phrase from Manuel Vazquez Montalban.

Still, if currently what is inconceivable ever happens, Barcelona may be expected to lose its current status at the top of world club soccer and become a national relic of the Catalan independence struggle, a thing of the past.