Category: La Liga

Gerard Pique right to voice out — Filipe Luis

Atletico Madrid defender Filipe Luis believes that Gerard Pique, his counterpart at FC Barcelona is right to speak his mind publicly, especially in regards to the recent Catalan independence referendum.

Luis, 32, added that more footballers should aspire to be like the controversial Spanish International, who had often made headlines in recent weeks in respect to his support for the disputed independence vote.

Spanish football fans had went so far as to jeer Pique during an open training session while away on international duty, with sections of their support questioning his commitment to Spain. However, Luis, who will face Pique when Barca visits Atletico in La Liga on Saturday, has come out in support of the former Manchester United youngster’s attitude.

“I am a fan of Pique, although I often disagree with what he says,” he said. “But he dares, like [Alvaro] Arbeloa. They are people who are not afraid to say what they think, who do not hide behind their fame.”

“They are admirable and hopefully more footballers will be like them.”

Nonetheless, Brazilian international Luis — who had spent most of his footballing career in Spain — cannot fathom the Catalonian desire to split from the country.

“It [the referendum] is a subject that I follow daily and I cannot understand,” he added. “I respect it, but in a world that tends to unite and open frontiers, it doesn’t sound right to me that a community wants to close itself.”

“I guess it’s because I have the vision of a Brazilian and in Brazil, with all its flaws, if the national anthem sounds, people are proud. Left, right, it does not matter. People are proud of being Brazilian and something I cannot understand is why that doesn’t happen here [in Spain].”

“Why do you want to separate? What do you think will be better?”

Andres Iniesta calls for ‘open dialogue’ over Catalonia crisis

FC Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta has called for dialogue between the Spanish government and leaders in Catalonia to resolve the crisis between the central government and its richest region following the disputed independence referendum on Sunday.

“I have never publicly weighed in on situations that are as complex and that arouse such diverse sentiments as this and I never will but the current situation we find ourselves in is exceptional,” Iniesta wrote on Facebook. “I am clear about one thing, and before we do ourselves more damage, we need those in charge to open dialogue with each other. Do it for all of us, as we deserve to live in peace.”

Iniesta, 33, who scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final against Holland, is one of few Barcelona players universally liked in Spain and often receives standing ovations when playing at visiting grounds, has even been cheered even at Barca’s arch-rivals Real Madrid home turf, Santiago Bernabeu.

He played 121 times for Spain and also won the 2008 and 2012 European championships alongside La Roja, although he is injured at present and unable to join the squad for their final World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel.

Meanwhile, Gerard Pique — a teammate of Iniesta’s both at Barca and at Spain, said he considered leaving the Spain team after he was whistled and verbally abused by supporters at the Spanish training session on Monday but insisted he would not give those fans satisfaction by walking away.

Pique echoed Iniesta in an appeal for respect and dialogue in the wake of Sunday’s Catalan referendum as the political situation grows increasingly tense, but also refused to reveal whether he had voted yes, describing that as the “$1m question”, while dismissing the popular assumption that he is in favour of independence.

The defender, who had pledged to retire from the Spanish international team should his views for a Catalan independence referendum be deemed a “problem”, said: “My commitment to the national team is maximum. I feel very proud to be here. I have thought about [leaving] and I think the best thing is to stay.”

“Going would mean that those people have won, those who think the best solution is to whistle and insult. I’m not going to give them that satisfaction. There are lots of people who want me to stay. If you talk, you can reach an understanding. I am sure that if I sat down with them all, it would be different. There are people in Spain whose positions are very diverse and if you talk, you can find a solution. I’d like people to listen and think: ‘What he says is reasonable.’”

Gerard Pique offers to end Spain career over Catalan independence view

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.”