Oleguer Presas was not a typical football superstar. As a defender he featured in a star-studded Barcelona side that won two league titles and a Champions League, paving the way for the Guardiola dynasty, but the defender’s thoughts concerned more than just football.
Oleguer was born in Catalunya and began his senior playing career in 2002 after coming through the ranks of the famous Barcelona youth setup. He is an economics graduate, an outspoken political activist and is above all, a proud Catalunyan nationalist.
The right-back was not in the traditional Barcelona mould. He had a slow and steady style, rarely ventured forward and always relished a tough challenge(especially against Real Madrid). The ‘Clasico’ derby against Los Blancos meant as much to Oleguer as it did to the average Barca fan. To him and to many others the derby is so much more than a game of football.
The anti-fascist, anti-Franco footballer compared winning the league to “halting the tanks, responding to their bullets with song and laughing in the face of the fascist.” It’s a pretty unique way to describe winning a football league but Oleguer is a pretty unique person.
He also found time to author a book called ‘The Road to Ithaca’. A novel which he describes as “an urban tale of friendship and utopia.”
Not content with simply writing books, Oleguer has also penned controversial articles. One such article criticised the Spanish legal system after the arrest of a member of ETA, the Basque nationalist militant group. An article that received sharp criticism from the Spanish media.
One would presume that Oleguer’s anti-fascist rhetoric would mean he leans to the left politically, but he is quick to point out that he doesn’t adhere to any strict ideology, saying how important it is to ‘keep on studying’.
The defender is a man of action and not just words. He was arrested and held in custody overnight in 2003 after trying to defend an illegal youth centre being shut down by the authorities. It is unclear as to exactly what happened on that night but it was rumoured that Oleguer assaulted a police officer.
He also spoke at anti-Iraq and anti-globalisation rallies in Barcelona but his outspoken nature didn’t go unpunished. His boot sponsors dropped him, he was the recipient of abuse at the majority of Spanish stadiums and interestingly for a Barca first-choice defender, he was never called up to the Spanish national team. However it’s a call up that he might well have rejected if it had come.
The defender made 136 appearances for his beloved hometown club before finishing his career with Ajax in 2011. He had a unique career for a modern footballer, and will be remembered not for his footballing talents but for the sheer controversy that surrounded him throughout his time at the Camp Nou.
Pundit Arena, Kevin Taylor.