With only a few hours left until the Assembly of the FIRS begins in Rome, this is the second part of the interview with Isidre Oliveras de la Riva, former president of the FIRS.
Were there any members of the FIRS who confessed that they wold have voted for Catlonia had the voting been secret?
Yes, many. And people who explained their personal situation. As I was saying, you are a normal person and then suddenly the Spanish Ambassador appears in your office together with your Minister of Sports
Have the Catalans got as many supports as they had in Fresno?
Yes more or less. But we have worked much more on it. After Fresno's experience we have done many things differently. After the recognition in Miami and the World Cup B title in Macau everyone was too confident and euphoric. We lack of discretion. Now we have done things quietly
Is the argument that the admission of Catalonia would be a great improvement for the world's roller hockey still valid?
Yes indeed. My dad was the FIRS president from 1964 and by then roller hockey was the first most imporant skate sport, then there was nothing and then the artistic skating. When I became president in 1990, roller hockey was still the first sport but artistic skating was getting very close. Then in 1990 and 1991 in-line hockey appeared and this is killing us. And if you have a new member like Catalonia, the most important country in the world in terms of roller hockey, how can you say no?
What has Aracu done for the roller hockey?
Nothing. He and his other directors are anti-hockey. Have you seen the situation of the roller hockey un Italy? The Mariotti brothers, Bertolucci and Michielon have been playing for more than 10 years in the national team! Is that bad that they are not getting new players... Look a few days ago I was in the USA and I spoke to one of the members of the FIRS Central committee, james Pollard and he told me that if Catalonia had said that they would only compete in roller hockey for a few years, as everyone knows that roller hockey is Catalonia, they would have had a greater chance.
If in Rome thet say no to Catalonia, what will happen?
We would have to go back to the beginnings after having fought really hard to get out of there... Well not really. You must think that even if the Catalan federation loses the voting, the Spanish federation will have to understand that they have a problem: more thatn 90% of the skating is Catalan. It wouldn't make sense that the top representatives of Spain were Liceo, Alcobendas or Tenerife.
And if Catalonia wins in Rome it would be such a Big Bang that they would have to sit down and reach an agreement.
If fact that is what they should have done from the very beginning. Because in the end, this is an identity issue and in Madrid they are very sensible to these things and they don't really want to understand. Last year I spoke very often to Jaime Lissavetzky and Rafael Blaco and once to the Spanish minister of culture and all they say is that only the Spanish national team can represent Spain. But we don't want to represent Spain!
Will you be in Rome?
I have thought about it and I decided not to go. The votes that we are going to get have been more or less decided and since Sabattino Aracu and Roberto Marotta are trying to convince everyone that it is my fault that the FIRS is in this situation, I think it will be easier for everyone if I am not there. I believe it would have a negative effect on the Catalan delegation.
12 months after what happened in Fresno, would you change anything?
Yes. Maybe I wouldn't resign even if that goes agaisnt my beliefs. I mean, ethically, I am convinced that I had to present my resignation since my team and my central committee voted against what I thought it was right. However, many people have told me that it was a mistake. That in sport politics you have to be inside to be able to change something and you have to ignore the ethics and moral.
If you hadn't resigned during the assembly, would had been a secret voting?
No doubt about this. Aracu couldn't have manipulate the assembly as he did. And another thing that someone mentioned to me afterwards: we didn't have to discuss that in Fresno. We could have waited for a few more months and maybe the situation wouldn't had been that tense....
Let's hope that all the hard work that Oliveras de la Riva has put into this since he became FIRS president in 1990 pays back.
At least he has the eternal gratitude of all the Catalan people.