LONDON — Moments after winning his first trophy as Manchester City manager, the focused switch to something less jovial for Pep Guardiola at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
The fight for Catalan Independence.
Guardiola, 47, was charged for making a political statement by the English Football Association last week as he’s been wearing a yellow ribbon publicly support his home state of Catalonia following the failed independence vote which led to local politicians being imprisoned.
Asked if he will continue to wear the yellow ribbon despite the threat of a fine or a touchline ban, the Spaniard was in a defiant mood.
“They [the FA] 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 [in England] it’s different apparently,” Guardiola said. “I have empathy for the people who have no freedom, those guys in Spain who are in jail. They haven’t been proven guilty. Anyone can be in that situation.”
The situation has been made more complicated by the fact that the English FA have been fined by FIFA for wearing poppies on their shirts to show respect to their fallen soldiers in past conflicts, which can be seen by many as a political statement.
After winning the League Cup Guardiola spoke passionately, and at length, about his reasons for fighting for Catalonia’s politicians currently in jail for their part in the independence vote. He wants them to be freed and he also acknowledged the 6,000 yellow ribbons that were dished out and worn by Man City fans at Wembley on Sunday.
“Before being a football manager I am a human being and this is for humanity. You did Brexit. You allowed Scotland to have a referendum about if (they) want to stay or not. And, after, the people vote,” Guardiola added. “There are four guys in prison and other guys, they don’t have weapons, just votes in the ballot. I said this is always with me and it always will be until the last. I will accept whatever they [the FA] decide about my behavior. It’s not a lack of respect, it’s being part of humanity.”
The FA will say rules are rules and this could lead to a hefty fine or a touchline ban for Guardiola.
It doesn’t appear that he cares about that and among his brilliance as a coach there appears to be a streak of severe stubbornness which means this situation has no end in sight.
In an age where people urge athletes and coaches to “stick to sports” good on Guardiola for standing up for what he believes in, no matter the costs to himself personally. We understand the FA have rules and regulations and if they allow Guardiola to do this, then it sets a dangerous precedent, but who is he harming?
There is some doubt as to Guardiola becoming a human rights crusader given a lack of political freedom in the United Arab Emirates, the home of Manchester City’s owners, because if he is fighting for the rights of one group of people, shouldn’t he be advocating fair political treatment across the globe?
Don’t expect this debate to disappear anytime soon.