Barca banner calls for 'dialogue and respect' amid crisis

Soccer Football - Champions League - FC Barcelona vs Olympiacos - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - October 18, 2017 General view of banner raised before the match REUTERS/Albert Gea

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona unveiled a huge banner reading "Dialogue, Respect and Sport" before kick-off against Olympiakos at the Nou Camp on Wednesday, calling for a resolution to the political crisis between Catalonia and the Spanish central government.

The Champions League game against the Greek side was the first at the Nou Camp since the La Liga clash with Las Palmas on Oct. 1 which was played behind closed doors in what the club said was a protest at police crackdowns on the banned referendum on independence in the region that day.

"This is the same message that was transmitted by Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Oct. 5, which called for a process of dialogue and negotiations to find solutions to the current political situation in Catalonia," Barcelona said in a statement.

As the banner was unveiled on a rainswept evening at the Nou Camp, Barca fans chanted "freedom" in response to the jailing of senior secessionist figures Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez on Monday pending an investigation into alleged sedition.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged on Wednesday Catalonia’s regional leader Carles Puidgemont to “act sensibly” and renounce the independence bid to head off a threat by Madrid to impose direct rule.

(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)