The final of Spain’s FA Cup-style competition has been announced at the Camp Nou for the tie in May. It seems a fairly simple decision given that the stadium is closer to the homes of both participants and it is the largest stadium in Spain. But behind both regions is a desire for separation from the national government.
Athletic Bilbao is based in the Basque region of the country, a region that prides itself on having it’s own identity, language and a rich economy. Catalonia is not so dissimilar, home to FC Barcelona and Espanyol. It is no wonder that these countries are calling for a referendum and more power to be given to their regions instead of going through parliament in Madrid.
Comparisons are being made to the Scottish referendum, posed by Alex Salmond and the SNP last year. But there are differences in the two calls for independence. In football terms, both have international friendlies that they play in on rare occasions. La Liga fans will note that Athletic Bilbao has strict policy on only signing players native to the Basque country. The club holds a strong academy and the region has given birth to some of Spain’s finest footballers.
Barcelona has many players that participate in both fixtures for the Catalan National Team and the Spain side that has won plentiful silverware in the last decade. Now the club will host the final in their 90,000+ stadium where they will be hoping to win their 27th Copa del Rey. Bilbao won’t make the game an easy task for the side playing in their own ground, as they are the second most-successful club in the tournament.
The rest of Spain will be watching with intent as both sides fight for one of Europe’s most exciting domestic competitions. It is too early to call who will win with form to be a decisive factor before a cup final. Barca are clear favourites with the likes of Messi, Neymar and Iniesta within their ranks. They currently top the table after their El Clasico victory against Real Madrid.
Athletic aren’t doing so well. Restrictions on transfers have meant no high profile signings and the club currently lie in 8th in the division. The cup run has been a welcome relief away from the stop-start form so far in the league.
The Camp Nou will prove to be a great venue for the finale, after Real Madrid rejected the opportunity to host the game once more. Bids were made to host the match also at either Valencia or Sevilla. It makes sense to be played in the north of the country where both sides will want to win the coveted trophy.