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Gerard Pique.

Gerard Pique announces plan to quit Spain team in 2018 after shirt controversy

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Gerard Pique has taken the extraordinary decision to announce his retirement from international football after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The surprise announcement came after the Barcelona defender was caught up in an apparent controversy concerning the shirt he wore for Spain's World Cup qualifying game against Albania on Sunday.

Pique, unlike the rest of his Spanish teammates, played the game with the sleeves of his shirt cut off to near his shoulders - meaning the Spain flag was removed.

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Almost immediately after taking to the field, speculation began concerning Pique's unusual attire with a lot of Spanish fans reacting angrily to what they saw as a slight on their country from a player with ties to the independence-seeking Catalan region.

Such was the speculation that the Spain FA had to come out on Sunday evening to explain the reason for Pique's customised jersey.

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"The Royal Spanish Football Federation wants to show their support for the Spanish international Gerard Pique to the controversy by cutting the long sleeves of his shirt in the match played against Albania," the statement, which can be read in full here, began.

"The player cut sleeves with the sole purpose of playing more comfortable, like other international have done on many occasions."

FBL-WC-2018-ALB-ESP

They also explained that the long-sleeve version of the shirt - which Pique had cut for comfort - doesn't have the Spanish flag on the sleeve anyway and was worn by Sergio Ramos on the night.

Although there was a fairly simple and harmless explanation to Pique's different look, the reaction from a section of the national team's supporters has meant the defender taking extreme action.

"I've tried everything but can not take any more, today with sleeves is the straw that breaks the glass,"

"They managed to lose the illusion to come here and although after Russia will have only 31 years old, I'll leave."

Pique's decision to put a date on his retirement from international football comes in light of a controversial few months for the centre-back.

Not only has he endured criticism for the shirt he was wearing but he was also under the spotlight during Spain's game against Croatia at Euro 2016 after some people thought they'd spotted him flipping the bird during the national anthems.

FBL-WC-2018-ITA-ESP

Clearly the veteran defender has grown tired of the intense scrutiny and unfair treatment he has received from a section of the national support and last night's controversy proved to be the final straw.

Of course, with two years still to go until the 2018 Russia World Cup, there is still time for Pique to change his mind on his Spain future.

However, right now, it looks like his mind has been made up thanks to the actions of some paranoid fans.

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Topics:
La Liga
Gerard Pique
Football
World Cup
Andres Iniesta
Barcelona
Spain Football

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