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.’”