Pep Guardiola boss joins Catalan independence rally in Spain

The manager of an English football team joined thousands of protesters in Barcelona yesterday to call for independence for the Spanish region of Catalonia.

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola gestures after delivering a speech during a protest organised by the National Assembly for Catalonia, to support the call for referendum in Barcelona. Picture: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola gestures after delivering a speech during a protest organised by the National Assembly for Catalonia, to support the call for referendum in Barcelona. Picture: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola urged voters to take part in an independence referendum scheduled for 1 October.

He told the crowd: “We will vote, even if the Spanish state doesn’t want it. There is no other way.”

On Friday, Catalonia regional government leader Carles Puigdemont decided to hold the vote later this year, in defiance of the government and contravening a ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

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Spain’s government has promised to stop the vote on grounds that it is unconstitutional since the matter would affect all Spaniards.

It is not clear whether the referendum will actually go ahead.

Recent polls suggest Catalan voters would narrowly reject independence.

Guardiola – a popular figure in Catalonia due to his footballing achievements – also demanded international help against “the abuses of an authoritarian state” at the rally.

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At least 30,000 people were said to have attended the rally.

The latest polls suggest that most Catalans support the holding of a referendum similar to the one held by Scotland in 2014 – the main difference being that the Scottish vote had the support of the British government.

Guardiola, who is former coach and player for Barcelona football club told the crowd that nothing should stop Catalans from voting

Polls indicate a tight race, with 48.5 per cent of respondents opposing independence, and 44.3 per cent in favour.

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In 2014, Catalonia held a non-binding vote in which people overwhelmingly backed independence. But only 2.3 million out of an electorate of about 5.4 million took part.