Pique reiterates commitment to Spain team
Urges 'dialogue' on Catalonia independence referendum
It was only two days ago that he wiped a tear from his eye, calling the widespread crackdown on Catalonia’s independence referendum one of the worst decisions made by Spain in half a century.
But FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique insisted on Wednesday that it’s “impossible” to doubt his commitment to the Spain team, allaying fears he could retire from international football before the 2018 World Cup.
“Being part of this national team is one of the best things that I have ever been part of and I am incredibly proud,” Pique told reporters at a press conference in Alicante.
“I’ve considered retiring as it would be easier for my teammates, but that would be a victory for those whistling.”
‘Everyone has their own opinion’
The Barcelona-born player has been jeered by Spain supporters at recent open training sessions for defending Catalonia’s right to vote, with some taking to defacing images of the player outside the Camp Nou stadium.
The 30-year-old has previously stated his desire to retire after next year’s World Cup in Russia and hinted he could walk away even sooner should head coach Julen Lopetegui or the Spanish federation regard his political stance as problematic.
But Pique moved to calm tensions on Wednesday, saying he’d be prepared to answer as many journalists’ questions as it would take to “sort this all out.”
“I think it’s a challenge for me and it’s up to me to turn it around,” said Pique, who was part of the Barcelona team which had to play in front of an empty Camp Nou on Sunday after the independence referendum descended into chaos.
“It’s impossible that everyone thinks the same. There are people who think that the Catalans should be able to vote – to vote yes, to vote no, or to spoil a ballot paper – and there are others who don’t think there should be a vote. Everyone has their own opinion.
“I think an independentist could play for Spain with no problems because there isn’t a Catalan team.”
Pique has won 91 caps for Spain and was a key part of the sides that won the World Cup in 2010 and European Championship in 2012.
Though not affiliated with either the sport’s world governing body FIFA or European football’s UEFA, he has also turned out for the official football team of Catalonia, appearing nine times alongside the likes of fellow Barcelona greats Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas.
Pique would not be drawn on whether he’d ever play for an independent Catalonia national team, contending the process would “take years anyway”.
More than anything he called for maturity from both sides, insisting open dialogue was the only way to solve Spain’s “big political problem.”
“I think Spain-Catalonia is like a father and son where the son is 18 years old and wants to leave home,” said Pique.
“Spain has the choice to just say no or to sit down and talk. I don’t see what you have to lose by talking. Dialogue brings people together.”
Pique is likely to line up against Group G opponent Albania on Friday as Spain’s bid to qualify for Russia 2018 intensifies.