Gerard Pique must retire from Spain duty after divisive Catalan independence intervention

Catalonia officials claim that 90 percent voted in favour of independence from SpainNewsweek

For some years, Barcelona and Gerard Piqué have professed to be aligned when it comes to politics and the Catalan independence process. Over the weekend, while the vote was taking place, they dispelled any remaining doubts surrounding their thoughts on the issue.

The president of the club, Josep Bartomeu, admitted that he wanted his team to play against Las Palmas behind closed doors because "we wanted the world to see what is going on in Cataluña". Over two million voters called for independence in a referendum, which was deemed to be illegal and blighted by violent scenes that left at least 888 people injured.

Mr Bartomeu should be aware that he is in charge of a football team and not a political party. A successful and famous team Barca might be, but they are a football club all the same. Barcelona have 340 million supporters all over the world, so their stance on Catalonia politics can act as a display of contempt to many fans not just in other parts of Spain, but across the world.

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Social networks were awash with messages from Spaniard supporters frustrated with their beloved club's behaviour, wondering if anyone inside the Nou Camp had thought about their cosmopolitan fanbase.

Bartomeu was not the only one to side with democracy. Xavi Hernández, the club's record appearance maker, also supported the freedom to vote. The Spaniard's message was sent from Qatar where the 37-year-old combines playing for Al Sadd with a role as an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup, a successful bid which has been riddled in corruption allegations. What next, Donald Trump writing a book on diplomacy?

But the most grotesque episode came when a visibly tearful Gerard Piqué spoke to media after the match against Las Palmas. "If anyone believes I am a problem for the federation, I will step aside from the national team before the World Cup," the 2010 world champion, who voted in the referendum, said. "Going with the national team is not a competition in patriotism, it's about trying to play the best you possibly can." Pique displayed hypocrisy and selfishness in equal measure, but reports claim his exit from the national team could be completed this week.

The Barcelona defender is entitled to have his own political stance and that must be respected. But he should not be able to decide what the Spain national team means to millions of his fellow countrymen. He further angered Spain fans when, 20 minutes after joining up with the national team, Piqué tweeted a message criticising the Spanish government for what happened in Catalonia over the weekend.

The national team has given Piqué the chance to win the most important trophy in football. However, he appears happy to accept remunerations for representing La Roja, a county he claims he cannot relate to. "I am and I feel Catalan," he said. This might be fair enough, but to use Spain to earn money and prestige and then use his lofty position to encourage people to vote in a referendum that allows him to cut ties with the nation is insulting.

Piqué has performed brilliantly while playing with Spain and has stayed far away from the political spotlight. But now, he has decided to take part in the Catalan independence process. If he feels Catalan, he should not need to wait to be asked to leave the national team.

That would be the perfect ending for him if he is seeking to be a martyr. Assuming his recent outburst is not just an attention seeking ploy, he must leave the Spanish setup this week. It is a matter of common sense.

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Pique has made no secret over his allegiance.Getty Images

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