Barça backs Catalan in schools row

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Barcelona football club has added its voice to a simmering political dispute between the region of Catalonia and Spain’s central government.

Weeks after Spain’s education minister said he was drafting a proposal to make the teaching of Castilian Spanish obligatory in schools throughout the country, Barcelona yesterday defended the use of the Catalan language and how it is being taught in the region.

“Our language, like our club, is an element of integration which permits us to identify with our country [Catalonia],” the club said in a statement.

Catalonia uses “immersion teaching” to propagate the use of its language, and the club said it “energetically asserts its right to use the Catalan language and the model of language immersion that has been in force in Catalonia over the last 34 years”.

The statement comes at a politically sensitive time for Spain. The financial crisis has left the country on the verge of requesting an international bailout, and the government has been forced to pass austerity measures. This has fuelled long-simmering separatist sentiments in Catalonia, which many believe can thrive if it becomes an independent nation within the European Union.