Pep Guardiola has admitted that he will stop wearing a yellow ribbon in support of Catalonian political prisoners if the protest begins to adversely affect his team.
The Manchester City manager also attempted to tone down the ribbon’s political connotations by comparing it to those worn to raise money for breast cancer.
Guardiola was charged by the Football Association last Friday for breaching kit and advertising rules regarding the display of political messages after wearing the ribbon during his side’s FA Cup defeat at Wigan Athletic.
The 47-year-old, who hails from the Catalonian town of Santpedor, has sported the ribbon since October in a show of solidarity with Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, two imprisoned independence activists from the region.
Even after his charge last week, Guardiola wore the ribbon on the touchline again for Sunday’s EFL Cup final win over Arsenal at Wembley, though it remained largely concealed underneath his coat and scarf.
Following his side’s 3-0 win, the former Barcelona manager claimed that he would “always” wear the symbol of Catalonian independence, insisting: “It’s not about politicians, it’s about democracy; it’s about helping the people who didn’t do absolutely anything.”
However, ahead of City’s Premier League meeting with Arsenal on Thursday night, Guardiola appeared to soften his stance.
When asked if he would stop wearing the ribbon if it began to ‘damage’ his team, he said: “Of course, I don’t want to damage my team or club. They know my opinion, it’s simple like that.
“The club is in front of me. It’s more important what is happening with the team and the club than my personal opinion.”
Guardiola does not expect his own employers to step in and end his protest, though he said he would accede to any such request from the club, repeating: “The club is more important than my personal opinion.”
The City manager also attempted to tone down the political significance of the ribbon by claiming it is “not about the right or left” and by comparing it to charity ribbons worn to raise money for research into serious illnesses.
“My personal opinion is not a political opinion,” he said. “When men and women put on a red [pink] ribbon it’s because of the support for the breast cancer initiative, for resources, the same like when I bring the the prostate cancer badge.
“It’s the same, the idea is the same, there are a lot of ribbons. I’m pretty sure there are people all around the world in Spain and Catalunya who do not want to be independent, but they are not agreeing with putting people in prevention jail.”
Guardiola, who received two formal warnings from the FA in December regarding the ribbon, has until 5.00pm on Monday to respond to the charge against him.
Though it is unclear whether he will contest the FA’s decision, he revealed on Wednesday that he will write to the governing body to explain his reasoning for wearing the ribbon.