Newly-elected Barcelona president Joan Laporta and his team were forced to explain a viral video in which he was heard telling a female fan to “call me when you’re 18” amid the club’s crucial poll at the weekend.
Laporta returned as Barcelona chief after winning a landslide in Sunday’s polls, securing more than 54 percent of the vote ahead of rivals Victor Font and Toni Freixa.
Laporta is starting a second stint as boss at the Camp Nou, having previously served as president from 2003 to 2010 – during which time the Catalan giants claimed four La Liga titles and two Champions League crowns.
But before the vote was revealed on Sunday, a viral video circulated which led to criticism of the 58-year-old.
In the clip, Laporta was seen posing with a female fan for a photo, squeezing her back and then saying “call me when you’re 18” as he walked off with a smile while making a ‘telephone’ gesture.
— La Liga Lowdown 🧡🇪🇸⚽️ (@LaLigaLowdown) March 7, 2021
The footage prompted a pile-on, with one observer branding the clip “disgusting” and suggesting that the fan involved was a minor.
But all was not as it was portrayed.
It later transpired that Laporta had been responding to a jokey request to hire the fan for a job.
The woman in question was also apparently far from a minor, and was actually a 30-year-old fan called Marta who later took to Twitter to express her anger over the distortion of the story.
“The ‘girl’ is 30 years old. He made a joke because my aunt always calls me ‘girl’,” the fan wrote, adding “long live Barca!”
Bona nit,Sóc la noia del vídeo amb en @joanlaportaFCB. La “nena” té 30 anys. M’ha fet una broma perquè la meva tieta sempre em diu “nena” i li ha demanat una foto per la “nena”. Visca el Barça! 🔵🔴
— marta (@martabafo90) March 7, 2021
Laporta campaign member Elena Fort also moved to clarify the clip, while Laporta himself said on Catalan radio on Monday that the context had been grossly distorted.
“On Women’s Day, no one has to explain to me what the claim for gender equality is. The video with the girl, taken out of context, seems like something else,” Laporta said, according to Marca.
❗️Elena Fort [Joan Laporta’s team] clarifies the video which was circulating around: “The mother of the girl who takes the picture tells Laporta ‘to see if you can hire her’ and Laporta says ‘when you turn 18’” #ElectionDay 🚫
— Reshad Rahman ✆ (@HagridFCB) March 7, 2021
That issue may have been resolved, but Laporta has plenty more on his plate as he begins his new tenure as Blaugrana president.
Laporta takes over with the club mired in debts reportedly exceeding €1 billion (US$ 1.19 billion), and with questions over the future of club captain Lionel Messi – whose contract expires at the end of the season.
Messi turned out to vote on Sunday and Laporta made keeping the six-time Ballon d’Or winner at the club a pillar of his campaign.
On being elected, the former Catalan MP said: “Seeing the best player in the world come to vote with his son is an example of what we’ve said.
“Leo loves Barcelona. That’s the reflection of it. The best player in the world loves Barcelona.
“Hopefully that will help him to stay at Barcelona. That’s what we want.”
Previous Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was forced out in disgrace in October after Messi had attempted to push his way out of the club at the start of the current season.
Last week, Bartomeu was among several figures linked to the Barcelona hierarchy to be arrested as part of an investigation into alleged misuse of club funds.
On the pitch, Barcelona have fared better in recent weeks and find themselves second in the La Liga table, three points behind Atletico Madrid but having played one game more.
In the Champions League, however, they are facing an exit at the last 16 stage having been beaten 4-1 at home by Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their tie in February. The second leg takes place in France on Wednesday.
PSG are considered strong candidates to secure Messi’s signature, should the 33-year-old Argentine opt to finally walk away from the club this summer.