Pep Guardiola has admitted he would abandon his ‘yellow ribbon’ protest if requested to do so by his employers, Manchester City, or if he thought the issue was negatively impacting upon his players.
The Catalan manager has been charged by the Football Association over displaying the political symbol on the touchline during games, in contravention of the English governing body’s regulations and in spite of two official warnings.
The City boss has claimed his protest is not political, but humanitarian, although it relates to four Catalans currently being held in prison over the campaign for Catalan independence from Spain.
Although Guardiola has been backed in his position by City, he does concede that should that position change, he will abandon his ribbon protest.
And he would do likewise if he ever felt that the issue was beginning to affect his team, currently a huge 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
“Yeah, of course, the club is in front of (more important than) me,” Guardiola told a pre-match news conference ahead of Thursday’s league match with Arsenal — the team his side beat in the League Cup final at Wembley last weekend to give the manager his first trophy in English football.
“It’s more important what is happening with the team and the club than my personal opinion. Of course, I don’t want to damage my team or club. They know my opinion, it’s simple like that.”
‘Personal not political’
Guardiola, a former manager of both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, added: “I think it’s not going to happen but if they (the club) say that, I am going to accept that. They are the bosses. The club is more important than my personal opinion. But my personal opinion is not a political opinion.”
His much-publicised stance over the controversy in Catalonia has become a major issue in his homeland where, according to reports in Spain, the City manager’s private plane was searched at Barcelona’s El Prat airport last week by police looking for exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.
However, Guardiola insists that, even though his protest aims to highlight the fates of a jailed group that includes Catalan politicians Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, it is not a political issue.
“When men and women put on a pink ribbon it’s because of the support for the breast cancer initiative,” he said.
“The same when I wear the the prostate cancer badge, it’s the same, the idea is the same, there are a lot of ribbons.
“I’m pretty sure there are people all around the world in Spain and Catalunya who do not want to be independent, but they are not agreeing with putting people in ‘prevention’ jail.
“It’s not about the right or left, the democracy or the republicans. If I wear the ribbon (as) support for the people with AIDS, it’s not for the right or left.
“The people in Catalunya are independent people, it’s not about a political issue. It’s for the people who say it’s not right to have four people in the ‘prevention’ jail when two of them are not politicians.
“No, the ribbons are many colours. It says something for humanity. The FA, I am open to talking to them, to express what I expressed in the last days and today.”
Support for Wenger
Meanwhile, Guardiola has also voiced his support for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, widely criticised following City’s emphatic 3-0 win over his team in Sunday’s League Cup Final at Wembley.
There have been calls for the veteran French manager to be replaced by the Gunners at the end of the season but, in contrast to a number of his high-profile peers, Guardiola insisted he will never speak badly of a rival.
“What happened with Arsene after the game has happened to me. I always support my colleagues,” said Guardiola.
“I don’t understand when managers criticise the other managers because we feel the same, when we win, when we lose, we accept the opinions of the fans and the people and you feel alone.
“Believe me, you feel alone because there’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders. I understand completely. I’d like to tell him that I am close, I am on the same side as him.”