Madrid: You can spot the distinctive claret and blue vertical stripes of the Barcelona football shirt the world over, and while the sales are significant, they hide a more precious meaning in the region of Catalonia.
The ubiquity of the Barca shirt around the globe can be explained by three Champions League wins since 2006 as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez terrorised the European club scene. On Saturday the club take on Juventus, who have an equally iconic black and white striped strip, in the 2015 Champions League final.
Barcelona claims to have 182 million fans on social networks while the population of the region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital, is just 7.5 million. While shirtmakers Nike do not release sale figures the club says 199 million euros of its 539 million euros annual turnover comes from marketing and derivative products.
But the shirt is also central to the Catalan nationalist independence movement for whom the stripes mirror the Catalan flag, albeit in claret and blue and vertical rather than blood and gold and horizontal, which was banned during the repressive Franco dictatorship (1939-1975) that sought to stamp out regionalism.
The shirt "Is a way of showing you're a Catalan," says Carles Santacana, professor of contemporary history at Barcelona University. Which will add to the bluster and brouhaha which will accompany the release of next season's shirt, which for the first time in the club's 115 year history, will switch from vertical to horizontal stripes.