On the Friday before the League Cup final, Pep Guardiola was charged by the English Football Association for wearing a yellow ribbon pinned to his shirt during an FA Cup loss to Wigan. Two days later, he wore the yellow ribbon again. Why?
Because, “before being a football manager, I am a human being,” Guardiola explained after a 3-0 victory over Arsenal. “And this is for humanity.”
Specifically, it’s a symbol of support for Catalonian political prisoners in Spain. The prisoners are activists fighting for Catalan independence, a movement Guardiola – who was born in central Catalonia – has publicly supported in the past on democratic principle.
“It’s not about ‘legal.’ It’s what people want to do with their lives,” he said the day before a referendum vote that was violently repressed by Spanish police. “Hopefully the Catalan people can use the most powerful tool in society, the ballot box.”
They weren’t allowed to on that day, and weeks later, two secessionist leaders, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, were jailed by the Spanish government. Since, two others – Oriol Junqueras and Joaquim Forn – have been imprisoned as well.
The Spanish government has denied they are “political prisoners,” but many see them as such, and see the arrests as attempts to suppress the independence movement. The deposed Catalan president, who fled the country to avoid imprisonment himself, dubbed them “hostages.”
These are the people Guardiola – and many others in or from Catalonia – is supporting.
“I have empathy for the people who have no freedom, those guys in Spain who are in jail,” Guardiola said after the League Cup triumph. “They haven’t been proven guilty. … There is four guys in prison. There are other guys who are outside from Catalonia, if they come back they’ll be in jail. For me, they are accused of rebellion, sedition; for that you have to have weapons. We don’t have weapons, they don’t have weapons. The weapons we have is just the vote and the ballot.
“I think it’s not about politicians, it’s about democracy, it’s about helping the people who didn’t do anything, just to have maybe another opinion to the other one. Hopefully in the future, the state, not Spain, the state of Spain can help these guys to be out of jail. Maybe in the future we can be there. Anything can happen.”
The reason this has only just now become a controversial topic in England is because the FA has deemed the ribbon – which Guardiola has worn for months – a “political message,” and therefore “in breach of the FA’s kit and advertising regulations.”
The article, A4 of the “kit and advertising regulations,” states:
The appearance on, or incorporation in, any item of clothing (including football boots) of any distasteful, threatening, abusive, indecent, insulting, discriminatory or otherwise ethically or morally offensive message, or any political message, is prohibited.
Guardiola, though, has said he will remain defiant.
“I said this is always with me and it always will be until the last,” he said Sunday. “I will accept whatever [the FA] decide about my behavior. It’s not a lack of respect, it’s being part of humanity.
“They know I will wear it always. I can wear it somewhere else. UEFA have another opinion. They say you can wear it as long as it’s with respect. Here it’s different apparently.”
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