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Alfredo Di Stefano 'signed' for Barcelona and played in a pre-season friendly, so how did he end up moving to Real Madrid?
Having been the brightest star in a team that won the European Cup in the competition's first five seasons, Alfredo Di Stefano is almost unanimously regarded as the greatest player in Real Madrid's history.
As current club president Florentino Perez noted in his emotional tribute, in a symbolic way, Di Stefano simply is Real Madrid. His presence looms so large that he came as close as anybody ever will to the status of being "bigger than the club".
But football history could have been different - very different indeed. Because when the magical Argentine forward first opted for a move to Spain, he appeared to be destined not for Real but their eternal rivals Barcelona.
The story of Di Stefano's transfer to Los Blancos is a fascinating and complex web of claims, denials, counter-denials and conspiracy theories involving five clubs in three countries. There are allegations of treachery, a mysteriously ripped-up contract and - possibly - the personal intervention of a dictator...
Website among eight fined for breaching law requiring any property rented to tourists to be on Catalonia's tourism registry
They boast magnificent city views, proximity to shopping and nightlife and the chance to live like a local.
But what some of the Barcelona properties listed for rent on Airbnb don't have, at least according to the government of Catalonia, is legality. The regional government announced on Monday that it was slapping a €30,000 (£24,000) fine on the website over what it calls a "serious" breach of local laws.
Founded in 2008, Airbnb now lists more than half a million private properties in 192 countries for stays as short as one night and is valued at an estimated $10bn. Catalonia has figured prominently in its growth, with Barcelona consistently ranking as one of the site's largest markets, and the company launched a Catalan version of its website last April.
The fine – the San Francisco-based firm's first in Europe – was for breaching local laws that state any flat rented to tourists must be registered with the Tourism Registry of Catalonia. Regional laws also prohibit the renting out of rooms in private residences.
Airbnb was one of eight letting sites fined by the Catalan government, but its success has made it the focus of widespread opposition to private tourist lets in Barcelona, where recent years have seen hundreds of thousands of private lets are on offer to cater to a growing number of tourists. Hoteliers have taken aim at the flats over what they deem unfair competition; while several neighbourhood associations blame private lets for driving up housing prices in central districts...
When Spaniards speak about “the crisis” these days, it is no longer clear which crisis they are referring to.
Until recently, it was obvious that la crísis could only mean the brutal economic downturn triggered by the bursting of Spain’s housing bubble six years ago. Today, however, the word may just as easily refer to the deepening political and institutional crisis that has engulfed the country.Until recently, it was obvious that la crísis could only mean the brutal economic downturn triggered by the bursting of Spain’s housing
Symptoms of this second Spanish crisis have, of course, been visible for some time, and are closely linked to the bitter economic hardship suffered by millions of Spanish families in recent years.
Now, however, they appear with greater frequency, and in ever more sensitive parts of the body politic. Rebuilding trust in the state and its institutions will take a Herculean effort, and this time neither the European Commission nor the European Central Bank nor the International Monetary Fund will be there to help.
“The economic crisis has made people realise our political system is less perfect than they thought. Trust in our institutions has collapsed,” says Antonio Barroso, a political analyst at Teneo Intelligence, a consultancy.
Politicians, parties and parliament, the government and the judiciary, the monarchy and the constitution, business and the unions – they are all facing hostile scrutiny as never before.
In the region of Catalonia, meanwhile, more and more people say they want to have nothing to do with the state of Spain. Secessionist pressures are on the rise, and will come to a head in November, when the regional government plans a referendum on Catalonia’s political future.
Many Catalans are envious of the Edinburgh Agreement, which committed both the UK and Scottish governments to respecting the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum
While many Scots caught up in the midst of the referendum campaign may despair at some of the things they see and hear, it seems the debate is being seen in a much more flattering light from further afield.
Earlier this year, Catalan President Artur Mas admitted he was "jealous" of what was happening in Scotland.
He pointed out that the Scottish referendum was taking place with the full support and agreement of both sides, while the Spanish government was refusing to accept the legitimacy of a similar vote in Catalonia.
And in May, former Northern Irish First Minister Lord Trimble told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that a "Yes vote in Scotland would reinforce the argument against violence because it's a demonstration of how you can achieve major change through the political democratic process".
Among the new Spanish monarch’s most pressing challenges will be holding his kingdom together.
Crown Prince Felipe, 46, who will become Felipe VI after his father Juan Carlos completes the abdication process set in train yesterday, takes the throne just as 7.6 million of his subjects in the region of Catalonia - the first contributor to Spain’s gross domestic product - prepare for a vote on independence this year. Polls suggest the result hangs in the balance.
“The prince needs to talk of integration,” Jose Antonio Gomez Yanez, a professor at the Carlos III university in Madrid, said in a telephone interview. “He has been trying but so far his message hasn’t had much resonance -- his position has been secondary to the king’s.”
FELIPE VI will set off on a tour of his restive country to win back support for the beleaguered royal family and discourage a Catalan rebellion when he becomes king this week.
In legal terms, Catalan leaders have yet to work out how they can hold a referendum on independence from Spain. In electoral terms, however, the northern region already looks like a different country.
The widening gulf between Catalonia and the rest of the nation was highlighted by the starkly diverging outcomes in Sunday’s European Parliament election: after a campaign dominated by the issue of independence, more than 55 per cent of Catalan voters backed parties that support a referendum on the region’s future status. Most do not even stand in other parts of the country. Five years ago, their share of the vote was only 38 per cent.
In contrast, Spain’s ruling Popular Party and the opposition Socialists – still by far the largest formations in the country – suffered heavy losses and found themselves pushed further to the margins of Catalan politics. “What you see in Catalonia is the emergence of a distinct Catalan party system,” says Charles Powell, director of the Real Instituto Elcano think-tank in Madrid.
The big winner on Sunday night was the leftwing Esquerra Republicana (ERC), a hardline secessionist party that is the most outspoken supporter of a historic break between Catalonia and Spain. Its share of the vote rose from 9 per cent at the last European election in 2009 to 24 per cent, making the ERC the biggest political party in Catalonia. Oriol Junqueras, the leader of the ERC, said the result marked “a further step towards Catalan independence”.
Convergència i Unió, the centre-right nationalist party that currently rules Catalonia, came second, with 22 per cent of the vote. Its share of the vote held up reasonably well, but analysts believe that Sunday’s result will increase the political pressure on the party and its leader, Artur Mas, the regional president. With support shifting towards the hardline secessionists, Mr Mas’s ability to strike a last-minute accord with Madrid to avoid a head-on constitutional clash could be severely curtailed.
“The [independence] process gains in strength, but Mas is weakened,” wrote Lluis Bassets, a Barcelona-based political columnist for the El País daily. “In these European elections of 2014, Convergència i Unió loses the hegemony of the process, and Artur Mas himself is forced to share the leadership.”...
In November 2012 I was in a convention hall on the Barcelona waterfront. The crowds were arriving for a speech by Artur Mas, President of the Catalan government.
Many of them were clutching the Catalan flag. When they arrived at their seats they found an EU flag already there. It meant that, come the television news that night, the Catalan and EU flags were seen waving together.
The intended message was simple: an independent Catalonia would remain an enthusiastic member of the EU. It would continue to enjoy the benefits of the single market. (Some Catalan businessmen had started warning that they might shift their headquarters out of Barcelona if Catalonia broke away from Spain.)
So the EU flag-waving was intended to reassure voters and officials in Brussels that the European project had nothing to fear from the yearning for independence.
I was reminded of this on news that the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, was coming to the Belgian city of Bruges to make his European pitch.
He carries none of the caution of most UK politicians. He is both a suitor and a seller. "Scotland's vast natural resources and human talent make it one of the lynchpins of the EU," he will tell the College of Europe.
With an eye to fears about dependency on Russian energy he will tell his audience that "in this area Scotland is blessed". "Scotland has fully 25% of Europe's offshore wind and tidal potential."
Without Scotland, he will say, "the EU's fisheries policy would unravel"...
Catalan leaders pushing for a
With a majority of Catalans demanding a chance to vote on their constitutional future, the Spanish government needs to find a way of addressing their concerns or risk a political backlash that could rattle markets, said Oriol Junqueras, leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, the separatist party that won the regional vote in May’s European election.
“The Spanish government owes 1 trillion euros and someone has to pay this debt,” Junqueras, 45, said in an interview. “It’s not a good idea to stop the Catalan people voting and it’s not good for international markets.”...
Barcelona will not be allowed to publicly unveil new £75m signing Luis Suárez while he remains banned for biting, Fifa has confirmed
Suárez is due to complete his move from Liverpool in the next few days, and the Catalan club has previously introduced star signings including Neymar and Cesc Fàbregas to packed stadiums. There have been suggestions Barcelona could hold a similar event for Suárez in a non-football venue to get around the four-month ban imposed on the Uruguay striker for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, but Fifa has now confirmed that any such event will not be permitted while the ban remains in force.
Fifa’s head of media Delia Fischer said: “The ban relates to all football-related activity. He cannot be in a football-related public event irrespective of the venue. He cannot even be involved in a football-related charity event.”..
He's a photojournalist who fakes miracles, a terrible photographer who's won one of the profession's top prizes, a 'bullshitter' who loves the truth … Stuart Jeffries enters the upside-down world of Joan Fontcuberta
In 1968, during a routine space walk, the Russian cosmonaut Ivan Istochnikov and his dog went missing. When Soyuz 3 was dispatched to find them, its crew found only a vodka bottle containing a note, floating outside the empty, meteorite-damaged ship.
Nothing was heard about Istochnikov for nearly three decades: it was as though the Soviet authorities had airbrushed their cosmonaut from history. Then, in 1997, Catalan photographer Joan Fontcuberta investigated Istochnikov's disappearance, exhibited documentary evidence about his life and published a book called Sputnik – the Odyssey of the Soyuz II, which included photographs of the Istochinikov family, meteorite fragments and the dented spacecraft. Others took up the story. Why, asked Spanish journalist Iker Jiménez on his TV show Cuarto Milenio in 2006, was Istochnikov deleted from history? Had he annoyed the Soviet government?
What Jiménez didn't realise is that "Ivan Istochnikov" is a Russian translation of "Joan Fontcuberta" (both surnames mean hidden fountain). What's more, if he'd looked closer at the Istochnikov family photos he would have noticed that the Russian cosmonaut was really a Catalan photographer. The whole thing was a hoax, elaborately documented by an artist ("I prefer to think of myself as an activist," Fontcuberta corrects me when we meet) to expose the construction of reality masked by the putatively neutral nature of documentary photography. There was no meteorite, no cosmonaut, no conspiracy, and – happily – no dead dog drifting eternally in space like a canine George Clooney...
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
Support for secession in the country’s biggest regional economy has been above 45 percent for the past year compared with 28 percent when the premier took office in 2011, according to regional government pollster Centre d’Estudis d’Opinio. The premier this week ruled out talks with the Catalan government unless it withdraws the referendum planned for Nov. 9.
Felipe VI makes his first visit to Catalonia as king today after making an indirect appeal to the region to remain part of Spain in his proclamation speech last week. A fluent Catalan speaker, Felipe is trying to hold onto a region that accounts for 10 percent of Spain’s tax revenue and a quarter of its exports.
Only days after his coronation - and with public support for the monarchy seemingly on the rise at last - Spain's new king will be plunged into a crisis this week when he comes face to face with those calling for his abolition.
To toast his ascent to the throne of Spain, King Felipe's guests yesterday drank Catalonian cava. The choice of wine showed an acute awareness of the country's two most pressing problems and an earnest desire to fix them. Spain must cater to its separatists without coming apart and it must return to full employment without returning to insolvency. There is no doubt that the king's advisers understand this. Spain can only hope that he does too. Strictly speaking this was not even a coronation. Felipe's head stayed bare and the old crown of Alfonso XII stayed on a chair throughout. It was instead a simple transfer of regalia and responsibilities from a father weakened by scandal and old age to a son so far untarnished by either. Even without the ejection of the national football team from the World Cup the night before, it came at a low ebb for Spain.
In November Catalonia intends to hold a referendum on independence that the government of Mariano Rajoy considers illegal and is determined to stop. Rumblings of secession and discontent have returned to the Basque country, and all of Spain is still reeling from recession. The unemployment rate stands at 26 per cent overall and more than 50 per cent for those under 26. Nearly half of Spaniards under 30 live with their parents.
Catalonians' yearning for a looser relationship with Madrid, or none at all, is based on cultural differences but also economics. They believe they shoulder an unfair burden of the cost of welfare for those regions where unemployment is most dire, especially in the south.
This is a legitimate complaint and one that Mr Rajoy needs to address, but Catalonian independence is not the answer. The unity of Spain matters, and, as the new king emphasised, it is not the same as uniformity. It matters to Catalonians themselves, who depend on their commercial ties to the rest of Spain more than they care to admit. It matters to the country as a whole, for which Barcelona is a vital economic engine room. It matters to the European Union, which is in no position to consider membership applications from a cluster of Iberian mini-states. Coping with the debt crisis of a unitary Spain has been complex enough.
King Felipe is a symbol of Spanish unity. He said as much in the short speech that launched his reign, but he explained carefully what sort of unity he had in mind. Spain's strength, he said, lies in its diversity. "There are different ways to be a Spanish citizen. We must co-exist."
In Spain such formulations are not clichés. They are vital to distinguish unity based on consent and tolerance from the conformity of fascism, which ended within the lifetime of any Spaniard born before 1975...
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Catalan President Artur Mas said on Wednesday his people have the right to decide on breaking away from Spain and he is forging ahead with plans for a Nov. 9 vote on independence that the central government vows to block on constitutional grounds.
Mas, leader of the northeastern Spanish region of 7 million people, told Reuters in an interview he is seeking a legal formula for a non-binding vote although Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said any format is illegal.
The 58-year-old Catalan leader, president since 2010, said there is nothing that Rajoy is likely to offer him that will damp down the surging independence movement and persuade him to call off the vote, which he calls a "popular consultation".
"In the end, the central government must abandon its political shortsightedness and leave Catalonia alone to hold the consultation," Mas said in an interview in the Pedralbes Royal Palace in Barcelona.
Two years ago at the height of Spain's financial crisis Mas, an economist who built his political career as conservative budget slasher, got fed up with trying to negotiate a new tax deal with Spain's central government and made a dramatic switch.
He abandoned his lifelong moderate nationalist stance - that of pushing Spain to give Catalonia more self-governing powers - and took up the radical cause of independence.
Riding a wave of pro-independence protests in Catalonia, Mas called for a referendum. He has since sent a date of Nov. 9, almost two months after Scotland's independence vote.
But while Scotland's vote is legal and will be recognised by Great Britain, Spain's parliament earlier this year blocked Mas's initial bid for a referendum.
Mas said he still had legal options. He said in the coming weeks the Catalonian regional parliament would pass a law setting rules for a popular consultation to be held instead.
This is a non-binding vote which will not lead to a unilateral declaration of independence. However, Mas said it will give him a mandate to seek a new relationship with Spain, including more power over taxes, welfare spending, police, infrastructure, and education...
Barcelona bade farewell to their captain, Carles Puyol, after a 15-year career that earned him 21 trophies and a reputation as one of the greatest centre-halves the world has seen
A one-club man and linchpin of Barça and Spain's all-conquering sides, he bows out with six league titles, three Champions League championships and two Spanish Cups to his name – along with a European Championship and World Cup with the national side.
Barça devoted a chunk of their club website to his farewell and former and present team-mates and coaches, among them Pep Guardiola, paid homage to their 36-year-old leader.
Puyol, who has captained the club since 2004, gave a press conference in front of his mother, brother, partner and friends and confirmed that an ongoing knee injury had forced him to retire. "We tried everything and I'd like to thank the doctors and physios for everything. We've not figured out a way to fix it, but I've not given up. I'll keep trying to sort it out but now without the pressure of having to play."..
Spain is starting to emerge from the crisis that has blighted the country, with recent data showing the economy growing at its fastest rate in six years. But one political issue casts a shadow over the nation’s political future and shows no sign of resolution: the demand by millions of Catalans for independence. The cause of Catalan independence has ebbed and flowed in Spanish politics for nearly a century. But in the past few years the Catalans, now 7.5m strong, have voiced their secessionist demands more forcefully than ever. Polls show that almost half of the Catalan people favour independence and about 75 per cent want a referendum on the issue.
One of the leading arguments for secession, in addition to the region’s history and separate language, has been economic. It is home to a seventh of Spain’s population and is among the wealthiest and most productive parts of the country. For years a healthy chunk of its tax revenues has in effect been given away to help fund the rest of the country’s public services. The sense that Catalonia is bailing out the poorer Spanish regions has become increasingly painful for its people.
Secessionist demands have created a rolling crisis involving Catalonia and the national government in Madrid. Artur Mas, the Catalan president, has called an independence referendum for November 9. But last month the Spanish parliament declared it would not tolerate such a move, striking down the formal request. Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, insists such a referendum would violate the 1978 constitution...