On Friday, as Xavi smiled happily for the cameras at the Prince of Asturias Awards as one of ten representatives of the Spanish national team, there were a number of subplots simmering in the background, several concerning FC Barcelona and coach Pep Guardiola.
Every year, awards are given out in a variety of fields by Felipe, Prince of Asturias, the son of Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia, and heir apparent of the Spanish throne. As winners of the World Cup, the Spanish National team were this year’s winners in the Sport category. Representing the team were ten members who had been to South Africa: Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina, Fernando Llorente, Carlos Marchena, Jesus Navas, Sergio Ramos, Juan Mata, Javi Martinez, Joan Capdevila and Xavi Hernandez. However, in many ways, the absentees from the ceremony caused more headlines than the players who attended.
Missing from the awards were thirteen players, three from the Premier League (Liverpool’s Torres, Fabregas of Arsenal, and Silva at Manchester City), three from Real Madrid (Xabi Alonso, Albiol and Arbeloa) and seven current Barcelona players (Valdes, Pique, Puyol, Iniesta, Villa, Busquets and Pedro). Obviously the largest group missing was from Barça, and includes all the goalscorers from the summer’s tournament.
Asked about these seven missing players, coach Pep Guardiola, speaking at a press conference before the Zaragoza match, was again forced to reiterate his stand: “I said Xavi would be there if he couldn’t make the trip to Zaragoza. I understand the Spanish fans would like to see all of the eight players who won the World Cup, but we’ve got a game at six on Saturday and I have to consider what’s best for this team and this club.”
Guardiola’s stance, along with the absences from Real Madrid, was met with critical backlash, most notably from the President of the Asturian Football Federation. As Catalan paper Sport reported, the president of the Asturian Federation of Football, Maximino Martinez, added fuel to the fire of controversy over the absence of many Barca players to the awards ceremony with some regrettable statements.
“Mourinho is from Portugal and Guardiola is Catalan, so equally they do not know the significance of the Prince of Asturias Awards. They are two practically foreign coaches,” declared Martínez to the microphones of Radio MARCA.
Despite Guardiola’s promotion of his Catalan roots, the statement seems particularly callous in light of the 47 caps and five goals that Guardiola has for Spain during his playing career. He even captained the Spanish team in 1992 at the Olympic Games, winning a gold medal and scoring Spain’s first goal of the tournament.
In support of their coach and their decision to only allow Xavi to attend the ceremony, an official statement was issued by the club:
The following is the official notice issued by FC Barcelona with respect to the statements of the president of the Asturian Federation of Football, Mr. Maximino Martínez.
FC Barcelona wishes to express our displeasure with the public statements of President of the Asturian Federation of Football, Mr Maximino Martinez, referring to our coach Josep Guardiola, during the delivery of the Prince of Asturias Awards.
FC Barcelona will make a formal complaint to the Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF – Royal Spanish Football Federation) for statements that it considers inappropriate for someone who holds a prominent position in the world of football.
Additionally, FC Barcelona would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm its respect for the Principality of Asturias and all its institutions.