3 June 2004
MADRID – A major political row broke out Thursday after Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said sports teams from regions with their own national character could not take part in international competitions.
Zapatero said sporting teams from Catalonia, Galicia or the Basque Country, which have their own language and want more representation, could not take part in competitive tournaments.
But Pasqual Maragall, head of the Catalan regional government, said it should be up to the international sporting federations.
The row blew up after the new government agreed to let regional teams play friendly matches.
Zapatero believes Spain must be represented by Spanish teams.
He said: “It is imposible to think of an international competition between a ‘autonomous’ (regional) and the rest of Spain. This is not possible.”
However, Maragall said it was “really important” that the Spanish parliament recognised sporting teams could be picked to represent the regions.
He added that the recognition of these teams did not depend on “any government but on international federations”.
He said the International Olympic Committee only recognised state sporting federations, but bodies like FIFA, the world football authority, recognises Scottish and Welsh teams.
“Each international sport selection is (regional) in this sense” said Maragall.
The international ice hockey federation has recognised the Catalan women’s team.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news