Tensions rise in Madrid ahead of Copa del Rey final

Madrid: Controversy surrounds the celebration of Friday`s Copa del Rey final between Athletic Club Bilbao and FC Barcelona in the Spanish capital of Madrid following declarations by Esperanza Aguirre, president of the Madrid Regional Authority (Comunidad de Madrid.)

Three years ago the two sides met in the Cup final, which was played in Valencia and a large sector of the supporters from the independence seeking Basque and Catalan regions booed and whistled the Spanish national anthem when it was played before the game.

This year`s final is likely to see a repeat of the booing of the national anthem with fans already angry that Real Madrid have refused to cede the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, which has a 25,000 larger capacity that the Vicente Calderon Stadium, where the final is eventually to be played.

King Juan Carlos, who will not be at the final as he recovers from the broken hip which he suffered while on a private hunting expedition to Botswana, has also seen his popularity fall in Spain as a result of that expedition and his son Prince Felipe of Asturias will preside over the final.

In the expectation of the anthem being booed, Aguirre commented that should that happen the game should be suspended and played behind closed doors at a later date. These declarations have been criticized by all sides of the political spectrum, including her own Popular Party.

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell, commented that his club`s supporters should be free to express themselves in whatever way they consider best.

However, it is clear that Aguirre`s words have raised tensions in the capital and increased possible hostility towards the probably 50,000 visiting Athletic and Barca fans, who will travel for the game.