Wednesday, May 27, 2009

British we are and British we stay... but I love my Barça

"British we are and British we stay... but I love my Barça"!

That's the phrase I once saw on a banner hanging out of a balcony on one of Gibraltar's many often flag draped apartment blocks... on the eve of another big football night, such as the one we have tonight... with the UEFA Champions League final between Spain's Barcelona v the UK's Red Devils of Manchester United.

Gibraltar is a place full of passions. Gibraltarians are particularly passionate (mostly) over our politics, when it concerns Spain and our sovereignty. Historically, one of the very few places in the old British Empire... who never said "Brits OUT"... in fact quite the reverse... we've always said (and voted) that Gibraltar will be "British Forever"! We've shouted it from the rooftops... and from our balconies and windows.

On any given day, Union Jack flags can still be seen, side by side with Gibraltar's red and white flag, hanging from windows on residential buildings. Now and then, in times of heightened crisis with our neighbour Spain... these become a wall of red, white and blue!

Yes... Gibraltarians are very passionately, sometimes blindingly and stubbornly so... about being British! Long may it last I say!

Which all brings me to think, that the peculiar passion that a significantly large group of Gibraltarians feel... for their Barça... FC Barcelona, is all the more incongruous!

You see, in Gibraltar, despite our very strong anti-Spanish feelings (a strange and mixed up melange of sentiments to be explored another time but mostly aimed at the politics and government of Spain and not its people, traditions or culture particularly), but in Gibraltar, there exists a large group of people, including a supporter's club that support FC Barcelona!

This is something that I have always found very odd. There are those who go further, calling these supporters of Barça traitors! These, it has to be said, are in a minority and it is a more extreme view... but many of us do get a little irritated by this support for a Spanish team, that's for sure... and remain a touch confused by it!

When asked... or challenged for their support of Barça, their explanation is that they don't see Barça as a 'Spanish' team. They argue, somewhat illogically to my mind, that Barcelona is Catalan and not Spanish.

Of course, Barcelona IS the capital of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, a region in the north east Spain... but it still remains and is the second largest city of Spain.

Gibraltar's Barça supporters argue that Barcelona sets itself apart from Spain, with its long tradition of rebellious autonomy. In the days of the Franco regime the Catalan culture was very much repressed throughout the duration of his dictatorship. Gibraltarians also relate to the fact that Catalans are widely bilingual, much as we are, speaking Spanish and Catalan.

So, in short, the fact is that many in Gibraltar support Barcelona FC... strange but there you have it. Personally, while it's not for me... I like the idea, that even when we, as Gibraltarians, can feel such strong passions for our British sovereignty, when it comes to football, some of us can, rather quirkily, find it in our hearts to support a Spanish team. There's something very healthy and sane in that concept!

As for the game tonight... I very much hope we will enjoy a great spectacle and good fair football... with the eventual result of a good win... for the British 'Red Devils'!

In the event that Barça do win... Gibraltar can expect the usual noisy celebrations, with cars full of loud Barça supporters honking their way round town to congregate at the 'Fuente del Capullo', the roundabout at the bottom of Watergardens, for rowdy goings on which will no doubt go on... long into the night... or as long as the beer at the nearby petrol stations lasts!

C'mon you British Reeeeedds!! razz

More news and info here: BBC SPORT | Football | Europe | Barcelona v Man Utd

Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Date: Wed, 27 May Kick-off: 1945 BST
Coverage: Live on ITV1 and Sky Sports 1, BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio Manchester; BBC Sport website.


Belinda Tailor said...

Hi Ernest, Just read and enjoyed your blog...I am British.....not a great lover of football but support Arsenal. Yet I find myself routing for Barcelona. I find that a healthy freedom of choice (will deffinately not be honking my horn or going to the fountain though). I think mainly it is because of my close connections with Barcelona and as ...everyone knows Barcelona's has a long history with Gibraltar. Anyway just thought I would voice these thoughts as I have been receiving emails regarding my support of Barcelona. Belinda Tailor

Cybernest said...

Hiya Belinda

Thanks for your interesting comment!

Ah well... each to his/her own eh? :) As I said in the post, there's something quite healthy in the concept of British people in Gib (or elsewhere for that matter) choosing to support the Spanish team... though for myself I do find a little difficulty with it and my own support will ALWAYS be for the British side! :)

Btw... I do hope those emails you have received are not in any way malicious. I suppose there's always someone who doesn't share our views... I know that from long experience publishing a blog. Can't win 'em all eh? heh heh

Good to hear from you... thanks again! :)

f oliva said...

hi ernest
to be honest i can't see the point you are trying to make with your piece on gibraltarians supporting barcelona as their favourite football team. there is nothing incongruous about it at all.
i will try shed some light for your benefit.
many gibraltarians who support barcelona -- myself included -- have absolutely no problem in accepting geographical and political realities as they are, in identifying with barcelona as a spanish team.
i will go further.
there are as many if not more gibraltarians who support real madrid as there are barcelona supporters on the rock. additionally during the recent european nations cup it was not uncommon to see a number of gibraltarians wearing the spanish team shirt. it was so popular it was even placed on shop front windows in at least two main street stores.
don't try and interpret this with old school politics. i experienced what you say at school when it was rare for any gibraltarian to be supporting any non-british, and especially spanish team.
if you saw the triumphant celebrations by a few hundred gibraltarians at the fuente del capullo after barcelona's masterclass in rome, you will have noticed that 90% if not more of those persons were youngsters and adolescents, who wree not even alive when franco died.
f oliva

Cybernest said...

Hola Paco...

My point is very simple and I think I expressed it quite clearly and unequivocally. I think the concept of Gibraltarians who support a Spanish team IS incongrous. What's there to be confused about?

I would ask you to note that I did also say, that I believe there's "something very healthy and sane in that concept"!

In any case, since you then go on to attempt to rebut my point of view, with your own, it shows that you had NO problem understanding my point of view.

I respect your point of view and it's fair comment. But you have to respect those who differ.

Please don't lecture me about "accepting geographical and political realities as they are"! I know very well what they are... and I realise there are some in Gibraltar who have a different point of view to my own, like yourself for instance. But I can assure you, there are many who agree with my view and yours is very much in the minority, in terms of the wider population of Gibraltar, where your anti British views, generally, are widely unsupported... and you know that to be the case. History and the facts are against you!

But.. as I say, I respect your right to have your views. While I disagree, I have no problem.... but I'll say again, don't tell me you don't understand... because you clearly understand all too well!

One thing that does strike me (not for the first time) about your comment is the standard of your writing. In particular, your apparent lack of understanding of simple use of upper and lower case or indeed punctuation. Since you've put your head above the parapet and have chosen to comment on my blog, I thought I would comment on this aspect of your writing. For someone who describes himself as a 'writer' and who has been a journalist for 25 years, writing for the Gibraltar Chronicle, I find this somewhat 'eyebrow raising' if not risable! But then... maybe this is a matter of 'old school' too... perhaps you missed this lesson in your English curriculum!

Thanks for passing by and commenting though. I do welcome comments with differing views, so please feel free to do so again soon.. as and when the urge takes you!

Saludos! :)

f oliva said...

hi ernest
i note with amusement the general tone of your reply, not least that you should be branding my understanding of aspects of the english language as 'risable' (sic).
you raise a serious point which goes right to the heart of what i have always advocated as the basis of the gibraltarian identity, and that is the harmonious blend of our british and spanish cultural traditions and backgrounds.
i resent that you should seek to distort my thinking and present it as 'anti-british views' without so much as a grain of fact to support such a misguided and inaccurate statement.
that i should support a process of political negotiation with spain, as the gibraltar government and the vast majority of the population does, and that i should support a spanish football team, as thousands of gibraltarians do, can in no way be held up as evidence of any anti-britishness on my part to support your outrageous claim.

Cybernest said...

Hi Paco

I'm sorry you resent my comments about your apparent anti-British stance. I was in no way intending to distort them.

My comment is purely based on the view you expressed, which sounded to me as anti-British. If this is not the case, then, my apologies... but that's how it came across to me I'm afraid.

As for Gibraltar's 'harmonious blend of British and Spanish cultural traditions and backgrounds', this is undoubtedly inherent in our psyche and very much a part of us. As indeed are the Maltese and Genoese influences that are also included in the wonderful mix that makes us Gibraltarians quite unique!

Speaking of 'harmonious blends' something else that I've always been very proud of as a Gibraltarian is the way our communities, of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindu and many other faiths, even agnostics and non-believers of anything in particular, can live together in total harmony. Something I've always felt the rest of the world could learn from us!

Saludos! :)