The claim that Franco sought to benefit Real Madrid at the expense of FC Barcelona is, along with with half-truths like the banning of the language and blatant lies like the banning of the sardana, a key element in Catalanista victimist mythology, and has been readily embraced by innocents from abroad. Here‘s a Chris Nawrat piece for the British Channel 4, based on Jimmy Burns’ Barça: A People’s Passion:
When Franco’s fascist forces finally prevailed over the Republicans in 1939 … Barça, who had narrowly survived the Civil War, came in for a pounding.
Real Madrid – Franco’s team – was to be deified. Officially. State-controlled Spanish television continually showed highlights of Real’s matches and very little of Barça’s, thus generating the notion among the populace that Real were Spain’s team. A Franco stooge Barça president managed to ‘lose’ Alfredo Di Stefano to their arch rivals when they’d already signed him. Di Stefano went on to lead Real to five successive European Cup victories.
The Spanish referees were also got at in a regime of terror. Not only did they favour Real in any encounter with Barça, the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s were also littered with bizarre – and obviously biased – refereeing decisions in other matches involving Barça which cost them championships and Cups. The decisions were so appalling that eventually even a puppet Barça president had the temerity to complain to the Spanish College of Referees. He was ignored.
Etcetera. Here, from Anti-Barcelona.com, is part of the case for the defence:
During the Civil War Real Madrid tried to get away from the front and provide a solution for its professionals by requesting inclusion in the Catalan championship inaugurated on October 4 1936. Given the increase in income this would have meant, all the Catalan clubs participating were enthusiastic, with the exception of Barcelona… [This] earned them the condemnation of all Catalan society, including their own players.
Protectionism. The Barcelona public …, incited by an aggressive press campaign which counted on the collaboration of Juan Antonio Samaranch, resulted in the first displays of sporting terrorism, intimidating Real in their 1943 Cup semi-final away match. Madrid won the subsequent game 11-1.
The Regime’s team. From the end of the Civil War until the arrival at Real Madrid of Alfredo Di Stéfano, Barcelona was the most successful team… At the beginning of the 60s, Barcelona had a large deficit which it decided to pay off with the sale to developers of the old Les Corts ground. Since it was green belt, the council rejected the scheme but, after losing various appeals, the Council of Ministers, presided over by Franco, gave the project the go-ahead… In 1974 the dictator received the club’s 75th Anniversary Gold Medal.
Despite the site’s name, this interpretation is closer to the truth than the version above. Here are two charts showing respectively the absolute (remember that low = good) and relative (Real position – Barça position) league positions of the two teams during the Second Republic and the Franco dictatorship:
- Barcelona successes are concentrated in periods of repression (40s, early 50s, early 70s).
- Real did better during periods of comparative openness (early 30s, late 50s, 60s).
- There is no statistical (or any other) evidence to support claims that Franco or his government intervened to assist Madrid defeat Barça.
- The (not particularly impressive) correlation between repression and Barça success could be thought interesting by those who worry about things like that. I suppose the Catalan nationalist-socialists might want to say that this shows the eternal spirit of resistance of the nation, while conspiracy theorists marching to a different drum might speculate that the government fixed results to provide a sporting carrot to accompany the repressive stick.
The closest we will probably get to any clear causal connection relating football results to government policy or Franco’s personal preferences is probably in Atlético’s string of post-war successes, when, as Atlético Aviación, it was sponsored by the armed forces. Allegedly. Here’s a chart of league positions from the period:
The same Santiago Bernabéu hagiography contains an anecdote from the period. Bernabéu escaped murder by the left and fought with the rebels during the war, but this was not, apparently, always enough:
An ardent Spanish patriot, but politically independent, he always kept Real Madrid safe from meddling by the winning side in the Civil War which was prevented from laying hands on our Team thanks to the truly heroic resolution of Don Santiago. Resolution that could have cost him his life when he stood up to no-one less than General Millán Astray, founder of the Legión Española and comrade in arms of General Franco, whose more prominent “deeds” include having been on the point of shooting dead [the philosopher] Don Miguel de Unamuno at the start of the University of Salamanca’s year and having attacked [tango star] Carlos Gardel. Millán Astray was in the VIP box during a match at the [old] Chamartín stadium when he took liberties with the wife of one of the other guests. When Don Santiago heard of the incident, he went up to the VIP box and threw out Millán Astray, forbidding him from entering the stadium. Millán Astray threatened to have Don Santiago killed and only the intervention of the mythical general Muñoz Grandes, under whom Don Santiago served in the Civil War, prevented our having lost our chairman. This act of Don Santiago, completely inconceivable in post-war Spain, raised him to the status of a true hero. The interference of the winners of the Civil War in Spanish sport caused Don Santiago to have various furious confrontations with the hierarchy of the Franco regime during which he always received the full support of Madrid fans, inhibiting the regime from taking reprisals against him such as forcing him to resign. To Don Santiago politics and football were like water and oil and he never allowed them to be mixed artificially. Another example of the personality of Don Santiago was seen in the sports pavilion (today the Pabellón Raimundo Saporta) during a basketball game between Real Madrid and Macabi from Tel-Aviv. During the presentation Don Santiago took off his golden Real Madrid insignia and pinned it on the Israeli general Moshe Dayan who was proud of being a faithful Madrid fan. This unprecedented act caused the wrath of the government, since General Franco’s regime didn’t recognise the state of Israel and it caused the “eternal hatred” of many in the Franquista hierarchy for Don Santiago.
There, some more lies to debunk.
If you copy-paste this post, you’re a worthless twat. Capisce?
- Franco and the golden ages of the sardana
The sardana was encouraged by the Francoist state and suffered its greatest difficulties during the period of revolutionary anarcho-syndicalist and Stalinist
- Galdós and those spud-crazy guiris
Where did he get that vernacular?
- Another lazy journalist
“The only constant throughout Spain’s storied history is failure”
- Spanish football celebrations on Barcelona Ramblas
John Chappell must have stayed up in conservative, nationalist Gracia if he had a quiet night. We were with friends on
- The green of the louse/Lo verde del piojo
An etymological hop from kite-flying with Juan Marsé back to Concha Piquer’s greatest hit.