‘Proud’ Pique to carry on for Spain despite Catalonia backing


Barcelona's defender from Spain Gerard Pique warms up before the Spanish league football match FC ...
Barcelona's defender from Spain Gerard Pique warms up before the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs UD Las Palmas at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO.

Under-fire Gerard Pique on Wednesday expressed his pride at playing for Spain, insisting he would continue with the Spanish national team despite his outspoken defence of the independence referendum in Catalonia.

“It is not incongruous,” said Pique of his intention to carry on despite his views on the wealthy northeastern Spanish region’s right to self-determination.

“I take it to the extreme, I believe that a person wanting independence could play in the Spanish team because there is no Catalan team and because that person has nothing against Spain.”

Pique, who was jeered by onlookers during Spain’s open training on Monday, added: “Why could a person wanting independence not play for the Spanish team? It’s a question I put forward, and it’s not my case. Why could he not?”

The Barcelona central defender on Sunday cast his vote in a referendum deemed constitutionally illegal by Madrid which was scarred by ugly clashes between voters and security forces.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets (R) celebrates with Barcelona's Spanish defender Gerard Pique and Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (R) after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs UD Las Palmas played behind closed doors at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO.
Barcelona’s Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets (R) celebrates with Barcelona’s Spanish defender Gerard Pique and Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (R) after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs UD Las Palmas played behind closed doors at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO.

Despite playing a crucial part of the Spain sides that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, Pique is routinely jeered when representing his country.

Step aside

He has already stated his intent to retire from international football after next year’s World Cup, but insisted he could step aside sooner if Spain coach Julen Lopetegui or the federation believe his political stance to be problematic.

“It is best to continue and accept this challenge of trying to reverse (the criticism),” Pique said Wednesday after having decided against turning his back on Spain.

“I feel very proud to be in the Spanish team… It’s impossible to question my commitment. I’ve been here (in the national set-up) since the age of 15 and consider it as family.”

Pique went on to ask for understanding of his political views.

“We are players, but above all we are humans,” he said. “Humans have opinions and opinions come from our environment, where we live and through the information we get. It’s not possible for us all to think alike.

FC Barcelona's president Josep Maria Bartomeu arrives to give a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 2, 2017. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed today two of the club's board members resigned in the wake of his decision to play a match behind closed doors after a violent crackdown by police of an independence referendum for Catalonia yesterday. / AFP PHOTO.
FC Barcelona’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu arrives to give a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 2, 2017. Bartomeu confirmed today two of the club’s board members resigned in the wake of his decision to play a match behind closed doors after a violent crackdown by police of an independence referendum for Catalonia yesterday. / AFP PHOTO.

“I think that through dialogue and respect we always get to the right place.”

Pique added that he spoke to teammates “who think differently from me. In the end we come to the conclusion that there are things that could be worked out, but that’s not for us to do, we’re footballers”.

Spain play Albania in Group G of European qualifying on Friday and Israel three days later, with one win from these final two games likely to be enough to automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia thanks to their far superior goal difference over second-placed Italy.

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