The Catalan referendum was always going to draw the attention of football fans due to its association with some of the most recognisable players in the world.
Barcelona – based in the heartland of the debate – is a global landmark in the region where the outcome will bear great significance.
While Pep Guardiola, Cesc Fabregas and Marc Batra are likely keeping an eye on proceedings from abroad, Gerard Pique is right amongst the controversy surrounding Catalan independence.
Despite violent scenes in the vicinity of the Nou Camp forcing Barcelona to host Las Palmas behind closed doors, Pique managed to play the entire 90 minutes of the 3-0 win.
He has described the outing as his “worst experience as a professional” before revealing how the decision to go ahead with the fixture came about.
“The board tried to postpone the game at all costs. We debated it between the players and the club and chose to play. It was difficult without the supporters. There were many arguments in favour and against but we were playing for the points and the league and Las Palmas wanted to play,” Pique said, per the Guardian.
“The club have decided and that’s it. My opinion is not so important. I expressed mine, like the board members expressed theirs. In the end it was decided to play the game. We are a club and we are all in it together. But I understand perfectly those who criticise us for having played.”
Pique is set to join up with the Spain team for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel, though his views on Catalan statehood has cast doubt over international future.
“You vote yes, no, or leave it blank, but you vote. In the Franco era we couldn’t defend our ideas. I am, and I feel Catalan, and I am very proud of the people, of their behaviour, like in the last seven years.”
SPAIN FUTURE IN DOUBT
Even with nearly 100 caps and two major trophies to his name, the 30-year-old claims he would consider quitting Spain if his beliefs were deemed unbefitting of a Spanish international.
“I honestly think I can join up with the national team because I’m convinced there are thousands of people who totally disagree with what has happened,” Pique said.
“I also say that, if the coach or anyone from the Federation thinks I’m a problem or a nuisance, then I will step aside and leave the national team before 2018.”
Pique’s identity is clearly more important than any trophy he’ll ever win – but only time will tell whether he’s willing to potentially give up his place at the 2018 World Cup.