The unofficial Catalonia national football team
The story regarding the unofficial Catalonian national team.
Catalonia and Spain are currently at the centre of world politics because of Catalonia's constant demand for independence from the Spanish Republic. And, when it comes to Spain, all things political relate indirectly to football, or more specifically, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Throughout the years, despite their differences, Catalonians and Spanish players have played together and won a lot of plaudits, famously lifting the 2010 FIFA World Cup by defeating the Dutch thanks to an Andres Iniesta winner, who interestingly has played for the unofficial Catalonia national team.
Which brings us to this "Unofficial Catalonian National Football Team." As Catalonia is not an official country (yet), it is not yet recognised by FIFA, and thus, they are not allowed to play any official fixtures such as international friendlies or World Cup/European Championship qualifiers.
The Catalonia national team started playing football in the early 1900's. In 1905, they started playing against local Spanish clubs such as FC Barcelona, Madrid CF and Club Espanyol.
Their first international match was against France on 2nd February 1912 in Paris, which they lost 7-0, which to date, remains their joint biggest defeat the team's history along with a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Spain in March 1924.
In 1934, the team faced the Brazilian national team who had come to Europe to take part in the 1934 FIFA World Cup, which was to be held in Italy. Surprisingly, the Catalans won that game 2-1. They played Brazil again a week later and held them to a 2-2 draw.
The team continued to play during General Franco's regime despite the dictator's restrictions on all things Catalonia. Various world-class players such as the legendary Johan Cruyff and Dutch teammate Johan Neeskens and Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano played for the Catalonia national team as guest players.
Since the past 10 years, the Catalonia National Team has been playing 1 to 2 matches each year, with various national teams from all over the world. The Catalans faced fellow Spanish side from the region of Basque in December 2014 and again in December 2015.
In 2014, the match was held in Bilbao - situated in Basque Country, which ended in 1-1 draw. The reserve fixture was played after a year in Barcelona (Catalonia) which the Catalans lost 0-1.
The most recent game in the national team's history was played on 28th December 2016 against African side Tunisia in Girona's Estadi Montilivi in front on 8300 people. The match finished 3-3 at the end of playing time, with the Tunisians winning 4-2 on penalties.
The team's last win came way back on 30th December of 2013, with a 4-1 win over another African side Cape Verde with Garcia and Bojan scoring 3 out of the 4 goals.
A majority of the players who have turned up for Catalonia have played for FC Barcelona or Espanyol, as they are the two major clubs from the Catalonia region. Catalan players are also broadly recognised Spanish citizens, who are also eligible to play for Spain.
Recent players include the likes of former and current Barcelona players like Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Sergi Samper, along with forward Sergio Garcia of Espanyol, Sergi Gomez of Celta Vigo and Real Madrid's goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
Many superstars have turned up for the Catalonia national team, either as a player of Catalonian origin or as a guest player. Various FC Barcelona players like Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Aleix Vidal, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Deulofeu, along with former players like Martin Montoya, Marc Batra and Cesc Fabregas.
Guests players include the aforementioned players, and also Andreas Iniesta, Johan Cruyff and son Jordi Cruyff, Alfredo Di Stefano with other great players such as Luis Suarez (Spanish international during the 60s), Laszlo Kubala, Hristo Stoichkov and Pepe Reina.
The team was managed by Johan Cruyff from 2009 to 2013. The current manager of the team is former Espanyol player and manager Sergio Gonzalez. Notably, Sergio Garcia is the team's all-time leading goalscorer with 9 goals in 14 appearances.
No one knows what the future lies for Spain and Catalonia. But it is safe to say that if Catalonia breaks away from Spain, their national team would be almost as strong as the Spanish side, because the main crux of the side comes from Catalonia and you never know, one day they might beat Spain to get the ultimate revenge! You never know!