Oh, Gerard Pique: Husband of Shakira, scorer of World Class own goals, a teammate of Lionel Messi, outspoken defender of his Homeland (not Spain, by the way).
Spain is a circus these days. A recent referendum in Catalunya, Spain’s richest and most popular tourist attraction, has the entire future political infrastructure of the Spanish Republic in doubt. Within what could be the ruins of a once prosperous Spanish Empire is the Spanish National team. Winners of the World Cup in South Africa back in 2010, and back to back winners of the European Cup — 2008 and 2012 — the schema of a once dangerously talented team could be swallowed whole by the political meanderings of one player.
Politics in Spain is no joke. The Spanish Civil War is not too distant a memory in the minds of many Spaniards. Spanish Grandfathers and Grandmothers have a knack for holding grudges, particularly those of the Catalan sort. Catalunya, the northernmost region of Spain that houses the great city of Barcelona — the homeland of Leo Messi (Sorry Argentines, but he wins for them and not you) and the brilliant work of architect Antoni Gaudí — is an oppressed region — according to the Catalans, of course. After the fascist victory in the Spanish Civil war, victorious dictator Francisco Franco punished Catalunya, making the speaking of their language, Catalan, illegal. He even executed the then President of Catalunya, Lluís Companys; to this day, he is the only democratically elected European Leader to be executed.
The legacy of Franco lives on. The man with the plan, he made all languages, except for Castilian Spanish, illegal, ripping autonomy away from the various regions of Spain (Catalunya, Basque Country etc.). Nowadays, with the political instability brought upon by a crisis of faith in the EU and it’ currency, the Euro, separatist movements have sprung up, and referendums are commonplace.
What does this have to do with the man who stole Shakira’s heart?
A lot, actually.
In a recent set of press conferences, Gerard Pique openly supported the Catalan Independence Referendum, a vote that the Spanish Government ruled illegal. Violence ensued as a result last Sunday, the day of the vote. Spanish federal police clashed with voters and protestors in an attempt (in vain) to halt the vote. Also on Sunday, Barcelona played in an empty Camp Nou stadium; a surreal scene. It was after Barcelona’s 3–0 victory over Canary Island outfit Las Palmas that Pique said: ““In the Franco era, we couldn’t defend our ideas,…I am and I feel Catalan. I’m proud of the people and their behavior,…There was no aggression [from the Catalan people], but the Police and the Guardia Civil have come here and acted as they have. They [Spain’s ruling government] have made the people of Spain believe that the Catalans are the bad guys. But it’s not like that. We just want to vote.”
Well, the vote took place, and 90 percent of Catalan’s voted for independence.
While FC Barcelona played in an empty stadium, arch rivals (and the team of Franco) Real Madrid played in a Santiago Bernabeu alight with Spanish Flags and fans showing support for the Spanish Republic. Visiting Catalan team, Espanyol, lost 2–0; their fans were left to look weak in comparison to the Madrid fans and their Spanish flags.
Pique, who participated in Sunday’s match, has been called up to the Spanish National Team to play in their crucial World Cup qualifier against Albania. A win will send the Spanish to the world cup for the tenth time in a row.
What does this mean for players of Catalan descent currently on the Spanish National Team roster?
How does one play for Spain yet feel Catalan? How does one support a movement to separate from the very country that you’ve been called up to play for?
It’s safe to say that Gerard Pique has succeeded in alienating himself and quite possibly his teammates, all of whom are from different parts of Spain that are also within touching distance of separating from the Spanish Republic.
Taking the topic of discussion off football and to politics was not a wise choice.
Quique Sanchez Flores, Espanyol’s head coach, refused to comment on the Catalan situation after the match at Camp Nou where his team succumbed to a 3–0 defeat. This was the direct opposite action to Piques.
Pique has only doubled down on his comments since. In a press conference this morning, stating: “why can’t a supporter of independence play for the Spanish National Team?” He also reiterated his position, that the people have the right to vote, solidifying his view that the Spanish government had no right to deem a referendum on independence illegal.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will declare independence next week after all of the votes have been counted. Pique has not answered clearly any questions concerning the possibility of Catalan independence coming to fruition.
Many have said that the Catalan’s are providing a model to the rest of Spain, or a how-to on how to separate. The Basque Country and the region of Galicia may be next. And if players like Asier Illaramendi (Basque Country) and Iago Aspas (Galicia) do the same as Pique, can a national team remain intact?
Sergio Ramos, it has been reported, feels his relationship with Pique has been “definitely broken,” due to Pique’s position. The two normally play together in Spain’s central defense.
However, according to Pique, his relationship with Ramos is fine and the reports are false.
Pique has stated he wishes to stay on the team, and will not allow the boos he received during a Monday training session with the National Team force him into retirement.