Real Madrid keep focus on football
MADRID (AP) :
Real Madrid are trying to keep the focus on football as they travel to Catalonia to play a Spanish league match this weekend.
Madrid face Catalan club Girona tomorrow amid heightened tensions in the northeastern region which has been clashing with Spain's central government.
The political crisis reached a climax yesterday, with Catalonia's regional parliament voting to unilaterally declare independence and Spain's government firing the regional leaders and calling for new local elections.
It will be Madrid's first trip to Catalonia since the crisis escalated.
Madrid, seen as the club of the Spanish establishment, has reportedly taken precautions ahead of its trip, including not using their official team bus, but they have tried hard to distance themselves from the political turmoil.
"We'll play our game without thinking about anything else," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "I'm not going to ask the fans for anything. We're thinking about the game. We hope it's a good match and nothing more than that."
He said players are not concerned about their safety during the trip to Girona, a city filled with pro-independence sentiment just north of Barcelona.
"We're not worried about Catalonia because security will be as it always is," Zidane said.
Reports in Spain said there was a possibility that the game could be called off because of the situation in Catalonia, but the club was not yet making and drastic changes to its travel plans.
"It's a football match and we are convinced that nothing is going to happen," Girona president Delfi Geli told local radio stadium COPE. "Real Madrid will be welcomed and respected. It's a historic match for us. It's the first time that Real Madrid will be playing in our stadium in the league."
"I think it's important to focus only on sports," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "It seems like things are changing every half an hour, you never know what is going to happen next. Let's see how it all ends. Right now my only responsibility is to try to make my team win."