It wasn’t quite “blink and you’ve missed it”, but Christopher Columbus’s 21-day spell as Spain’s largest football fan in history came to an abrupt end on Sunday morning, when a giant replica Barça shirt that had adorned a statue of Europe’s most famous explorer in downtown Barcelona for the past three weeks was removed.
The Barcelona shirt was placed on Columbus, who stands on top of a 60m-high plinth, as a publicity stunt timed to coincide with Barcelona’s match against the city’s other Primera Division side, Espanyol.
The sponsor responsible paid out roughly €100,000 for Columbus’s “support”, all of which was donated to local charities.
Although the shirt has provoked a huge amount of comment and publicity in the press and social media, its removal took place on Sunday morning in a 21-minute operation with just a few recently embarked “early-bird” passengers from visiting cruise liners as observers.
“Taking the ‘pinny’ off the ‘doll’ was not so hard; it was putting it on that was difficult – that took more than five hours, we had to measure him first,” Manuel Navarro, who oversaw both operations, told the local newspaper La Vanguardia, which dedicated three pages to the removal procedure.
Although Columbus’s unwitting conversion to a Barcelona fan drew an appreciative response from tourists, there were also criticisms of using the statue, one of Barcelona’s most emblematic, for publicity purposes.
Fans of Espanyol presumably were not so appreciative, either, of the idea.