Barcelona condemn nationalist flag ban in Cup final

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona have expressed their opposition to a police order prohibiting their supporters from bringing Catalan nationalist flags to the Spanish King’s Cup final against Sevilla on Sunday.

The police said on Wednesday that the flag known as the "estelada", favoured by supporters of Catalan independence, would not be allowed into the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid under national laws against violence, racism, homophobia and intolerance in sport.

“FC Barcelona expresses its absolute disagreement with the announcement that the exhibition of esteladas in the Copa del Rey final will be prohibited,” the club said in a statement.

“FC Barcelona consider this decision an attack against freedom of expression, a fundamental right of all individuals to express ideas and opinions freely and without censorship, as recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Barcelona were fined 30,000 euros (£23,101) last July after supporters waved esteladas during the Champions League final in Berlin. They were also fined 40,000 euros in October for supporters bringing the flags to their Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen.

“Barcelona have defended and will continue to defend the freedom of expression of its members and fans, who have always demonstrated a high level of civility and respect," the club said.

Barcelona were at the centre of controversy in last year's King's Cup final, when their supporters and those of opponents Athletic Bilbao booed Spain's King Felipe before kick-off and whistled during the national anthem.

(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)

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