Gerard Pique has found himself in an unwanted position as the political unrest in Cataluna boiled over into the extreme scenes we saw on Sunday morning as police attacked pro-referendum protesters leaving as many as 700 people injured.
The Spanish international has upset a lot of people in Spain for his political views where he has been a supporter of the referendum on Catalan independence, and speaking after a match that very nearly didn’t take place, the toll it is taking on Pique was clear to see.
Barcelona initially asked for the game to be postponed, and then threatened not to play, but as they could have been slapped with a six-month ban for failing to fulfill their fixture it was decided that the match against Las Palmas would be played behind closed doors.
Barca won 3-0 thanks to goals from Sergio Busquets and a brace from Leo Messi, which would suggest that the defenders didn’t have too much trouble, but Pique described the match as his worse experience as a professional.
Speaking to the media in the mixed-zone after full-time, Pique teared up as he gave his view on the troubles in the region.
It was a really difficult game to play, my worst experience as a professional. We all gave our opinions (in the dressing room), there were pros and cons for playing, but in the end we have decided to play. I understand that there are supporters who do not understand that decision.
I am and I feel Catalan. Today I am more proud of the people of Catalonia, despite the violence they have been more peaceful than ever. We’re not a minority, we were millions of people. We are not bad people, we just want to vote. The whole world has seen what has happened today. It’s been one of the worst decisions this country has made in 40 years (to send in the Spanish police).
It will only separate Catalonia from Spain even more. We have a president who doesn’t even know how to speak in English. When you can, you vote. Whether it’s yes or no, you vote. Here, during the Franco years, you couldn’t even vote.
If anyone believes I am a problem for the coach or the Spanish Football Federation, I will step aside from the national team before the World Cup. Going with the national team is not a competition in patriotism, it’s about trying to play as best as you possibly can.
You have to admire him for facing the media under such difficult circumstances.
It will be difficult to imagine a situation where Pique pulls on a Spain jersey again considering he has become such a polarising figure, but there are much greater issues at hand and the Barcelona defender is speaking up for what he believes in.