Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia knows all about the complexity of Spain’s regions.
Born in Borriol, a town on Spain’s the east coast near Castellón, Garcia is a keen supporter of the Real Madrid soccer team.
Following his Masters triumph earlier this year, Garcia was even invited to take part in the ceremonial kick-off ahead of the “El Clasico” match between Real and Barcelona — one of the fiercest rivalries of Spanish sports.
And now the former world No. 2, who has traveled the world during his golf career, has become the latest high-profile athlete to comment on the Catalan independence debate, encouraging unity as widespread protests continue across the country.
“The only thing I can say is what I feel,” Garcia told CNN’s Living Golf show, putting his hands to his heart.
“As a Spaniard, I think that there’s [already] so many bad things happening in the world, it feels wrong to separate each other,” added the 37-year-old, who was speaking to CNN north of Barcelona near Girona.
Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets of Barcelona in recent days following the dismissal of Catalonia president Carles Puigdemont and the region’s cabinet.
On Friday, Madrid took unprecedented measures to quash the region’s bid to split from Spain, deposing Puigdemont who led the independence drive.
“It is a very touchy subject,” said Garcia, who won the first major of his career at Augusta. “Obviously I’m not a politician and I’m not going to start being one.
“Hopefully everything gets fixed and hopefully everybody’s happy with the decision that comes around it.
“I think we should be looking into everybody. Not only Spain and Catalonia but everybody getting closer together to make this world better.”
Sport meets politics
Garcia is not the only major Spanish sports star to speak out since the crisis in Spain escalated.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has defended Catalonia’s right to vote, previously hinting he could retire from international football should Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui or the Spanish federation regard his political stance as problematic.
“I think Spain-Catalonia is like a father and son where the son is 18 years old and wants to leave home,” said Pique.
“Spain has the choice to just say no or to sit down and talk. I don’t see what you have to lose by talking. Dialogue brings people together.”
Tennis great Rafael Nadal, winner of two majors in 2017, said he watched the police crackdown on October 1st’s disputed vote with “concern and sadness.”
“I want to cry when I see a country where we have known how to co-exist and be a good example to the rest of the world get to a situation like this,” said Nadal.
The European Union, for its part, has backed Madrid in its handling of the matter, with European Council President Donald Tusk tweeting: “I hope the Spanish government favors force of argument, not argument of force.”
Puigdemont insisted: “Dialogue has been, and always will be, our choice to solve political situations and achieve political solutions.”