Barca fans defy UEFA with Catalan flag protest


Barcelona face further action from UEFA after thousands of separatist Catalan flags were again flown ahead of their Champions League clash with Manchester City on Wednesday in defiance of UEFA’s ban on political symbols.

Just as in last month’s match against Celtic the Champions League anthem was drowned out by a chorus of boos and chants in favour of Catalan independence.

Thirty thousand flags were distributed outside the ground by the Catalan National Assembly in protest at charges pressed against Catalonia’s parliamentary speaker, Carme Forcadell, for hosting a debate on independence by Spanish prosecutors.

Barca were fined 150,000 euros ($170,000) by UEFA for the presence of the flags at the Camp Nou during last season’s competition, 50,000 euros of which was suspended for two years.

European football’s governing body has yet to take any action against Barcelona for events before the Celtic match.

Barcelona have previously stated their anger at the fines as “totally unjust and…opposed to the exercise of the freedom of expression.”

The flag, known locally as the “Estelada”, which differentiates from the red and yellow Catalan flag by the presence of a five-pointed star within a blue triangle, has in recent years become a symbol of the independence movement within Catalonia.

However, UEFA considers it a political symbol and fined Barcelona 40,000 euros after it was flown during a Champions League group game against Bayer Leverkusen last September.

The club was also fined 30,000 euros in July 2015 after it was flown during the Champions League final in Berlin the previous month, where Barca beat Juventus to lift the trophy.

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola is a staunch supporter of Catalan independence.

Guardiola, who led Barca to 14 trophies in four years in charge between 2008 and 2012, made a symbolic stand for election to the Catalan parlament as part of a pro-independence alliance last year.

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