Believe it or not, sports and politics are more intertwined than most of us fans really want to acknowledge. And we really don't; we want our football and politics to be separate, but it hasn't always happened that way. This was especially the case in Spain during the Franco era, a nasty bloody time in Spain's history.
In 1939 General Franciso Franco brought an end to the Spanish Civil War. It was March 28 when General Franco's forces captured Madrid and set out to try and bring the country together by unifying the new Spanish state. As most of us know, unification to Franco meant murder, torture, and any means necessary to put down any anti-national thoughts and actions. One of the regions that caused him the most trouble and therefore the place he focused his attention was in Catalonia.
Football in Spain at the time was a means to try and escape, if only for 90 minutes, from the horrible things that were going on when Franco took control. It was also a means for cultural expression. So of course, Franco decided it was to his benefit to use football as a propaganda tool.
With this in mind, he took an interest in the Capital's team, Real Madrid. The General didn't really care for football, but he saw it as a means to an end where the source of Catalonian pride was concerned: Barcelona. General Franco went as far as enacting many prohibitions, included the outlaw of regional languages. Franco demanded that FC Barcelona be translated to its Spanish equivalent Barcelona CF. That alone was enough to show that Catalan society was not to be tolerated under Franco's rule.
In 1943 Barcelona CF (as Franco demanded it be translated) played against Real Madrid in the The Generals Cup, though it was known up until that point in time as the Kings Cup. But hey, when you control everything and kill anyone that opposes you, I guess you're allowed to rename a football trophy.
Like most semi-finals, this would be a two-legged affair that would start off in Barcelona.
At that time, Barcelona was in full control and most likely on their way to the finals, with a convincing 3-0 win. The next match was to be in Madrid with the General in attendance. Once Barcelona arrived in the Spanish capital, they were visited by the Generals Director of State Security. They were then reminded of the State's generosity for allowing them to remain in the country.
Barcelona took the hint, and promptly went out and lost 11-1. Real Madrid would then go on to face Atletico Bilbao in the finals, whom they would defeat 1-0 to take home the Generals Cup. A lot of General Franco's "support" for los blancos remains as much a mystery today as it did during his time in power.
But there is no doubt in anyone's mind that he "supported" Real Madrid.
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