15.3.07

Un diari israelià explica la catalanitat de l'Espanyol

Amb el rerafons del partit de la UEFA d'avui, en què l'Espanyol s'enfronta a l'equip israelià del Maccabi Haifa, principal club de futbol del país amic del pròxim orient, el diari hebreu Haaretz, explica què és l'Espanyol i reivindica la seva catalanitat.

Aquest és l'article:


What's in a name? Espanyol is all Catalonian
By Marie Carmen Xuares

BARCELONA - Espanyol supporters say that being an Espanyol supporter is something you are born with and is not a matter of choice. Indeed, if choice were to come into it, one could hardly imagine anyone prefering to root for a team that for the past 107 years has been under Barcelona's giant shadow. The purple and blue of Barca have dominated the Catalan capital economically, politically and sportingly. Even though Barca was founded by a Swiss citizen, Joan Gamper, the club was chosen by the Catalan establishment as Catalonia's unofficial representative against the oppressive regime of Generalissimo Franco. But it seems that not many remember that while Barca owes its establishment to a foreigner, Espanyol, Maccabi Haifa's UEFA Cup round of 16 second leg opponent tomorrow, was founded by a Catalan, Angel Rodriguez. Rodriguez and his fellow students at the Universitat de Barcelona chose blue and white as the colors to adorn its jersey and shield, the colors that appeared on the shield of the great Catalan Admiral of the Middle Ages, Roger de Lluria.
But despite its pure Catalan roots, many feel it is the club's name, Espanyol, that has worked against it. In Catalonia in the post-Franco era, everything Spanish was vilified. A few years ago, the club decided to change the way its name was written, from the Spanish Espanol to the Catalan Espanyol and changed its anthem from Spanish to Catalan. Since Daniel Sanchez Libre took over as president, he has given Espanyol a more Catalan image, improving the status of its fans. However, Espanyol still has only 25,000 registered supporters, compared to over 100,000 for Barcelona. If anyone needs further proof of Espanyol's Catalan credentials, they need look no further than Libre himself. The Libre family is one of the city's aristocratic families and the Esanyol president's brother Joseph is one of the province's prominent politicians, a member of the Democratic Union of Catalonia and one of the authors of the Catalonian constitution of 2006. Political and economic constraints forced Espanyol out of its ground in the Sarria district and to wander to the Estadi Olimpic de Montjuic on the Mount of Jews. High-rises went up in place of the old stadium, helping the club extract itself from a major financial crisis and Espanyol now rents the main stadium of the 1992 Olympic Games for a paltry 600,000 euros a year. Espanyol's supporters claim the stadium has a weather system all of its own. Sometimes, one a sunny day on the slopes of the Montjuic, the stadium, located atop of the hill, has a wintry chill, with strong winds and even a drop of rain. The supporters feel that the Olympic Stadium has never really become a home ground for the club and in many home games, most of the stands in the 55,000 seat stadium are left half empty. The empty feeling is not helped by the track which runs around the pitch and distances the fans even more from the team. Espanyol's supporters would rather move to their own ground and Libre, who was the one to sell off the club's original Sarria ground, has taken the mission of providing them with one upon himself. In 2003, he reached an agreement with the Barcelona Municipality to purchase a lot in the Cornella neighborhood. The 35,000-seat stadium is scheduled for completion in 2008. Until then, Espanyol and its supporters will continue to look for a home where they can feel comfortable. A warm corner in this big city.

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