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FC Barcelona focus on football rather than political crisis ahead of Catalan independence referendum

Barcelona: Barcelona tried to distance themselves on Wednesday from a political crisis enveloping Spain ahead of an 1 October referendum on Catalan independence called by pro-secessionist politicians.

The behaviour of fans at Barcelona's 99,000 capacity Camp Nou will be under the spotlight as they host Las Palmas in La Liga on Sunday, whilst the potentially historic vote is taking place.

 FC Barcelona focus on football rather than political crisis ahead of Catalan independence referendum

Catalan separatists demonstrate carrying "esteladas" or independence flags ahead of the Catalan National Day in Barcelona. AP

"It will be an important day in the history of our country, but we have to focus on football," said Barcelona vice-president Jordi Cardoner.

Spain's government and the country's constitutional court have declared the vote illegal.

Among a number of measures being taken to impede the referendum, 14 regional government officials were detained last week.

In response, Barcelona released a strongly-worded statement condemning the arrests in "the defence of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech, and to self-determination."

A powerful symbol of Catalonia, Barcelona have been cautious not to support either side of the independence debate, but have backed the wealthy north-eastern Spanish region's right to decide at the ballot box.

Chants in support of independence are also common at the Camp Nou in the 17th minute of each match to mark the fall of Catalonia in the Spanish War of Succession in 1714.

"I think that all members, fans and supporters will express what they think is right," added Cardoner on the likelihood of more pro-independence chants.

"We would ask that there is respect and above all that is happening in the country, we concentrate on the competition.

"For all of us in the stadium that day, the important thing is to win the game."

However, Cardoner did confirm Barcelona's players will perform their warm-up for Sunday's match in shirts matching the colour of the Senyera Catalan flag.

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Updated Date: Sep 27, 2017 20:43:49 IST

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