As his home state of Catalonia edges closer to independence from Spain, a Catalan-born former Sheppartonian wishes he could be back home, supporting efforts.
Oriol Fernandez, who was based in Shepparton playing soccer locally for a number of years, has watched on with interest via friends, the internet and social media as his home region and broader Spain locks horns.
Like much of the world, Mr Fernandez also watched on over the weekend as images of violence in Barcelona circulated the globe following Catalan efforts to vote in an independence referendum, ruled illegal by the Spanish government.
According to reports, Catalonia plans to declare independence from Spain within days following its banned referendum.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said earlier he would ask the region’s parliament to declare independence following the poll, which Spain’s government and constitutional court said was illegal and in which only a minority of Catalans voted.
Participants in the referendum opted overwhelmingly for independence, but turnout was only about 43 per cent as Catalans who favour remaining part of Spain mainly boycotted the ballot.
Batons and rubber bullets were reportedly used to prevent people voting. Hundreds were injured in scenes that brought international condemnation.
Mr Fernandez, a firm believer of using voices, not violence, stressed many in the state just wanted the opportunity to have their say in the poll.
‘‘We basically want to vote ... the central government don’t want to allow us to vote,’’ he said.
While the push for independence is a complex and historical one, Mr Fernandez argues the strength of the local economy, the desire for a better deal for the region from the central Madrid, the unique Catalan culture and language meant many already considered themselves Catalans, not Spaniards, first and foremost.
Watching the images broadcast from Catalonia on Sunday, Mr Fernandez said friends in Barcelona had said the scenes had been ‘‘very scary and dangerous’’.
He said the tense situation, playing out locally for many years, had only recently been placed centre stage as a result of such conflict.
‘‘It would make me very happy to be honest,’’ Mr Fernandez said of the the possibility of Catalonia being independent.
The state was closer ‘‘now more than ever,’’ he said.
— with AAP