Football was introduced to Catalonia by British immigrant workers in the late 19th century and since then the autonomous community has often led the pack in developing the game in Spain.
Catalonia organised both the first association and the first league in Spain, known as the Football Associació de Catalunya. Since La Liga was formed in 1928, seven Catalan clubs have played in the top flight.
FC Barcelona are the only Catalan side to avoid relegation while RCD Espanyol, CE Sabadell FC, CE Europa, Gimnàstic de Tarragona, UE Lleida and CD Condal – who were dissolved in 1970 – have all featured, while Girona who are currently 14th in the top flight, didn’t feature until the 2017/18 season.
There have been a lot of highs in Catalonian football, mainly through FC Barcelona who have lifted 25 league titles. And despite the threats of expulsion from the Spanish football system following the controversial Catalonian drive for independence in June 2018, Barca remain and are stronger than ever.
But away from the glory witnessed at Camp Nou, travel just 65.7 miles and you’ll find Catalan minnows CF Reus Deportiu currently fighting for not only their place in Segunda but for their existence as a football club.
Reus have been banned from professional football for the next three years and been hit by a €250k fine following a financial meltdown. In late December the squad publicly announced that they could terminate their contracts over unpaid wages. LaLiga 123 were forced to suspend recent games against Las Palmas and Albacete due to the dire financial situation they found themselves in, before Monday’s ruling over their expulsion from professional football in Spain.
It is believed that in these desperate times the club even reached out to Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué who has spoken openly about his desires to buy a football club in the past. It has since been announced that the club's major shareholder Joan Oliver has managed to secure the club’s immediate future after agreeing a takeover by the American group US Real Estate Investment. However, there are fears that the new owners would lose interest in the project due to the recent news.
And Reus are not the only Catalan club in danger of relegation. Gimnàstic de Tarragona, commonly referred to as Nàstic are currently rock bottom of the Segunda table, six points from safety. The lowest scorers in the league are in drastic need of a turnaround. A vital 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Córdoba earlier in the month gave them a lifeline but they have since failed to put a run together.
Nàstic have been placed under a transfer embargo and have still not paid all of the squad their wages for November. The club has tried to add to their sqaud with the likes of Abdelaziz Barrada arriving on loan from Antalyaspor. But despite the new additions, Nàstic have missed the presence of tough-tackling centre back Raúl Albentosa who’s loan expired earlier this month.
Worrying times at the other end of Catalonian football, one which hides in the shadows of Barcelona as the possibility of LaLiga 123 featuring no Catalan clubs next season grows.