Tue, Nov 16, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Former soccer boss forms new political party in Barcelona

SEX APPEAL:Barcelona’s former chairman Joan Laporta has added sex to Catalan separatism by adding a former porn star to his list of supporters

The Guardian, MADRID

A former chairman of Barcelona soccer club has launched himself on a political career as a populist Catalan separatist, whose backers include the region’s most famous porn star.

Former club chairman Joan Laporta hopes the popularity garnered by two Champions League wins and four Spanish league titles can be turned into votes when Catalans choose a new regional government on Nov. 28.

His aim is to break Catalonia away from the rest of Spain and create a newly independent state.

“It is time to win our independence and administer our own resources,” the 48-year-old lawyer said as campaigning for the elections started last week.

Laporta’s latest signing is local porn star Maria Lapiedra, who has thrown her support behind his new Catalan Solidarity for Independence party and has begun to appear at campaign rallies. Her appearance has earned ridicule from both rival separatists and anti-separatists.

“I don’t understand all the fuss,” she said after appearing at an event last week. “All I have done is change parties.”

Some doubt Lapiedra’s real commitment to Catalan independence. Her other passion is Spain’s World Cup-winning national soccer team — which many separatists refused to support on the basis that they want Catalonia to have its own.

She once appeared, naked and painted in the colors of the Spanish flag, in a video urging people to cheer for the Spanish team.

Laporta is trying to ride a wave of popular Catalan anger about the Spanish constitutional court’s decision in June to water down a new charter of regional autonomy, which had been approved at referendum.

“The path of regional autonomy has now been closed down by the constitutional court,” he said.

The court’s decision to strike out parts of the charter provoked massive demonstrations across Catalonia in the summer and saw a surge in those who told opinion polls that they favored independence.

Some recent polls have shown that up to half of Catalans would now favor independence.

Polls also suggest that on Nov. 28 they will oust the socialist-led coalition that currently runs the region in favor of the moderate nationalist Convergence and Union coalition led by Artur Mas. Some polls show Laporta winning at least one seat for his new party.

He was the elected chairman of FC Barcelona until June, when his second term came to an end.

During his seven years as chairman, he encouraged supporters to see the club as a substitute for a Catalan national team — even though stars such as Leo Messi, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o came from Argentina, Brazil and Cameroon.

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