Soccer: Barcelona, Iniesta call for dialogue over Catalonia crisis
By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona have joined captain Andres Iniesta in calling for dialogue between the Spanish government and leaders in Catalonia to resolve the crisis between the central government and its richest region following Sunday's disputed referendum.
Heavy-handed tactics employed by Spanish police trying to stop the ballot on Sunday which the regional government said left over 840 people needing medical treatment have been widely criticised.
Spain's Constitutional Court issued a ruling on Thursday suspending a session of the Catalan parliament that planned to declare Catalonia's independence.
"I have never publicly weighed in on situations that are as complex and that arouse such diverse sentiments as this and I never will but the current situation we find ourselves in is exceptional," Spain midfielder Iniesta wrote on Facebook.
"I am clear about one thing, and before we do ourselves more damage, we need those in charge to open dialogue with each other. Do it for all of us, as we deserve to live in peace."
Iniesta, who scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands, is one of few Barcelona players universally liked in Spain and often receives standing ovations when playing at visiting grounds. He has even been cheered at arch-rivals Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
The 33-year-old, who has played 121 times for Spain and also won the 2008 and 2012 European Championships, is currently injured and was unable to join up with the squad for their final World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel.
Barcelona also released a statement, signed by club President Josep Maria Bartomeu, reiterating their support for the Independent Commission for Mediation, Dialogue and Conciliation on the dispute, which is promoted by the Barcelona Bar Association.
"FC Barcelona, as one of the leading institutions in the country, demands a process of dialogue and negotiations to find political solutions to the situation happening in Catalonia, and for this to be done with the utmost respect for the wish of the majority of Catalan people to decide on their future," Barcelona said.
"We are More than a Club. And it is precisely because of that that we feel that it is our duty to stand by our people, under such difficult circumstances as those that are being experienced right now," they added.
"Together with other bodies from civil society, we want to build bridges with dialogue that contribute to resolving the conflict in a peaceful and consensual fashion."
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)