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Fury as Basque flag is torn down during La Liga match

16 Jan 2023 3 minute read
Security guards tearing down the Basque flag

Luke James

Almost fifty years after a football match played a deciding role in the legalisation of the Basque flag, fans in the country have been left furious after their flag was removed from a stadium during a top-flight match.

Security guards were seen tearing down a red, white and green ‘Ikurriña’ at the stadium of Osasuna, one of three Basque clubs in La Liga, during their 1-0 victory over Mallorca on Sunday evening.

The incident came after Osasuna’s famously raucous and left-wing fans displayed a banner promoting a demonstration in Pamplona later this month.

The police ordered the banner to be confiscated along with other flags and signs because they had not been authorised before the match, according to Basque newspaper Berria.

They also included a flag of the Navarre region of the Basque County and security even tried to confiscate a young fan’s homemade sign asking for the shirt of one of the team’s players.

It was the removal of the Basque flag that was most controversial because of its history. A video of the incident which has gone viral on Twitter is captioned “Year 2023 not 1976.”

Despite the death of Spain’s fascist dictator, Franco, a year earlier, the use of the Basque flag was still illegal in 1976.

Spain’s home affairs minister at the time, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, said it would be “displayed over my dead body.”

But that ban was effectively ended through a show of defiance by footballers in December of that year when the captains of Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao walked out for a Basque derby holding the ‘Ikurriña’.


Just a month later, the Basque flag was being flown legally from the town hall in Pamplona, which sits just 2 miles away from Osasuna’s El Sader stadium.

As well as overlooking sensitive local history, security guards also picked possibly the worst fan possible to confiscate a flag from.

Eneko Compains, a professor of constitutional law at the University of the Basque Country, was the owner of the flags which were confiscated.

“From one day to the next, without changing the regulations, the flag that you normally put up is illegal because, apparently, the person in charge of security has been annoyed by a large banner in the south stand. Can you be more arbitrary?,” wrote Compains in a lengthy explanation of why the removal of his flags was unconstitutional.

“The Spanish Constitution prohibits the arbitrary operation of public powers, so if the order came from the police it is completely illegal. It’s also illegal if it came from the club, which is obliged to respect the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, including freedom of expression.

“In the end, and although they deny it, it shows that the Ikurriña and the flag of Nafarroa are the symbols that most annoy the police and defenders of modern football.”

Osasuna’s board of directors have issued a statement saying that they regret the actions of security staff and have launched an investigation into who was responsible for the order to remove the flags.

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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 year ago

In the early nineties, I was at a Cardiff City away game at Bolton Wanderers’ old ground Burnden Park. Nathan Blake was playing in those days. Before the game started and not due to trouble nor promoting any demonstrations, two coppers came to the fence and removed two Ddreigiau Goch flags simply because we wuz Welsh. It caused a reaction but then such blatant racism would. Bloody unbelievable!

1 year ago

If the Basque country cannot be flown then neither should the Union Jack. FIFA doesn’t recognise the United Kingdom as a country.

Carol James
Carol James
1 year ago

The legally-authoritarian Tories will soon introduce a Public Use of Flags Act.

1 year ago
Reply to  Carol James

Didn’t the last Labour Government try to bring in a ruling that only the flags of sovereign states could be flown in the UK, which meant that the flag of, for instance Cambodia could be flown in Cornwall, but not the St. Piran flag? Likewise the Red Dragon in Cymru. Immediately sales of the Cornish flag shot up and the flag was flown all over the duchy. The Government responded by saying they would “turn a blind eye”, and the legislation died a death.

1 year ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

That’s the first I’ve ever heard of it. But I do get annoyed when Labour politicians frown upon people flying the St Georges Cross, trying to associate it with the’far right’. I’d rather the English flew their national flag than fly the Union Jack.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 year ago

This action by the Spanish stasi reminds me when the English Foreign Office demanded Wales during the 1958 football World Cup in Sweden take down our Y Ddraig Goch and replace it with the Union Flag. They also forced players to sing that durge God Save The Queen instead of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. Typical fascist regime. Their motto. You have two choices. Ours.

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