17.05.06

Josep Maria Solé Sabaté, Historian: “The collection of signatures that fostered the Pro Catalan Sports Teams Platform was a historical milestone.”

Josep Maria Solé Sabaté, Historian
“The collection of signatures that fostered the Pro Catalan Sports Teams Platform was a historical milestone.”
Josep Maria Solé Sabaté, Historian
“The collection of signatures that fostered the Pro Catalan Sports Teams Platform was a historical milestone.”

From a historical perspective, what is the situation like now with regard to the claim of Catalan Teams?
The subjective conditions are very good. Most citizens of Catalonia defend the right to have Catalan Sports Teams like any other nation. Thus, the citizens have expressed themselves whenever they have been questioned about it. In the field of sports, there is a clear majority of defenders of Catalan Teams. However, objective conditions are rather problematic because Spanish institutions have increasingly and systematically been closing all the paths that could allow Catalonia to have sports teams competing at an international level. Spain has been making and will continue to make the whole process very difficult. At any rate, I think that the people’s will shall sooner or later impose itself; this will is basic to go on. If Catalan citizens continue pressing to obtain the international recognition of Catalan Sports Teams, we will end up obtaining it. We should not forget that sport and the claim of sports teams are only two of the large number of mechanisms that nations have to express themselves. Historically speaking, Catalonia is a sporting country. Most sports federations of Spain were born in Catalonia; later on, the corresponding Spanish federation absorbed the Catalan one and annulled its specificity. All these elements should help us to strengthen our position, but it is clear that Spain will not make things easy for us.

The events of Fresno are an example of the difficulties that await us.
In Fresno, Spain has taken off the mask. The state machinery has started to work: it has bought, coerced, threatened and played all sorts of tricks to prevent the Catalan Skating Federation from being recognised by the FIRS. Before the assembly in Fresno, many people ingenuously thought that Spain would stay quiet and would let the process take its course. After that, I think that no one may doubt it: state power has imposed itself in a tough way.
“The pressure of Catalans is basic if we want the process to go ahead successfully. Thanks to this pressure, the path towards the international recognition of Catalan Sports Teams was started.”

Do you believe that in Rome something similar may happen?
Spain will certainly put pressure again on the assembly in Rome for the Catalan Skating Federation to be rejected by the FIRS. However, this time, the process will neither be as bungled nor as evident as it was in Fresno; I think that the whole process will be done more quietly. Be that as it may, we will see what the assembly decides to do.

Do you believe that outside Catalonia the claims to obtain Catalan Sports Teams are understood?
Here we must speak of two levels. On the one hand, outside Spain, I do not think that people have too many difficulties in recognising the right of Catalan Federations to ask for their admission to their corresponding international federations. There are many examples of federations recognised that do not have a state behind. On the other hand, in the other places of Spain, everything is politicised and here is when problems arise. Spanish people try to homogenise everything, symbols as well, and when power wants to impose itself, it may be dangerous, for it may do it in many ways, even with strength; that is to say, forcing or threatening whoever is necessary: federations, managers, sports players…
“Federations and political parties may do and must do much more to defend Catalan Teams. We must not be soft, we must claim with determination and without fear, with the very clear idea that Spain will not make any concession.”

Are the Catalan federative bodies doing enough to obtain the recognition of Catalan Teams?
Most directors of federations are politically naïve people. When the vindicative movement has reached a certain level, they have not been up to it. Others prefer to play on a sure basis with the status quo or are simply scared of the politicisation of the whole process.

Could political parties also do more?
Yes, they could do much more. Many times, Catalan political parties have cringed when facing pressure coming from Madrid. Too often they have been frightened, they have been too soft; pressure has to be put on them so that they defend with more strength Catalan Teams. They have to be directly stimulated. Citizen pressure is a key element in the whole process. Thanks to this pressure this whole process was started, which must conclude with the positive answer of international federations.
“I count on the fact that, in the future, Spanish political parties will understand that those of us who defend Catalan Teams are neither confronting anyone nor denying any identity.”

May the collection of signatures fostered by the Pro Catalan Sports Teams Platform be considered a historical milestone in all this process?
Yes. This popular movement was very important because, in addition to proving that many citizens are in favour of Catalan Teams, it involved all the institutions of the country: government, Parliament, political parties, trade unions and a great number of associations of all kinds. This popular legislative initiative was to make advances; if not, it would have been a disappointment for the population.

To conclude, should we be hopeful regarding the future?
The path is full of difficulties but we must be optimistic. At present, in Spain there is a democratic tradition that has not yet been consolidated. This will change as years go by and democracy is strengthened. I hope that, in the future, Spanish political parties will understand that Catalan Teams are not an attempt to deny Spanish identity.
“The collection of signatures involved the whole Catalan society in the defence of the teams; this was very important.”