Barcelona defender Gerard Pique says that he will retire from the Spanish international team before the World Cup if his support for Catalonia’s independence referendum is deemed a “problem”.
Pique, 30, made the claim that he could retire from representing Spain after Barca’s home win against Las Palmas, which was played behind closed doors as a protest on a day when violent scenes broke out during Catalonia’s unofficial independence referendum.
As a Spanish International, Pique played almost 100 matches for Spain and helped them win the World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2012. He was pictured casting his vote in the election earlier before playing the full match against Las Palmas and eventually speaking to reporters about the decision to go ahead with the fixture, his international future and Sunday’s events in the region.
“I think I can continue,” said Pique. “But if the board really thinks I’m a problem, I will take a step back and leave the national team before 2018.”
“You vote yes, no, or leave it blank, but you vote. In the Franco era we couldn’t defend our ideas. I am, and I feel Catalan, and I am very proud of the people, of their behaviour, like in the last seven years.”
Barca had asked the Spanish football authorities to postpone the game against Las Palmas, but was rejected by the Liga de Futbol Profesional despite citing the unusual circumstances. The Catalan club then took the remarkable step of playing the top-flight fixture in an empty Nou Camp. They won 3-0 to stretch their winning start to seven games.
“The board tried to postpone the game at all costs,” Pique added. “We debated it between the players and the club and chose to play. It was difficult without the supporters. There were many arguments in favour and against but we were playing for the points and the league and Las Palmas wanted to play.”
“The club have decided and that’s it. My opinion is not so important. I expressed mine, like the board members expressed theirs. In the end it was decided to play the game. We are a club and we are all in it together. But I understand perfectly those who criticise us for having played.”