Pique’s personality and Catalan independence referendum view provides colour in an all too sanitised sporting world

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Gerard Pique says he won't be driven out of the Spanish team.

    We’re footballers but we’re people too. Why can a journalist or a mechanic express themselves but not a footballer?”

    Gerard Pique stands in a small club at present; a footballer comfortable and willing to speak his mind even in the midst of such anger towards him. Whatever your views, it’s difficult not to be impressed with how Pique conducted himself in the wake of events in

    Catalonia and subsequent fallout.

    As the most outspoken high-profile figure within Catalonia’s strive for a referendum and independence, Pique has become a lightning rod for those in disagreement.

    He is routinely booed, cheered, mocked and insulted at Spain games and rival stadiums when playing for Barcelona over the years but has forever stuck to his message and what he believes in, for his city and his region.

    It would be easy to keep his thoughts to himself, retreat into a carefully-managed PR bubble and the comfortable lifestyle of being a multi-millionaire footballer.

    Except the issue is bigger than that, and Pique has shown himself to perhaps be a greater statesman than he is a defender.

    He spoke emotionally and honestly after Barcelona’s bizarre 3-0 victory over Las Palmas, played behind closed doors at the Camp Nou due to the violence that had occurred in the city as Spanish police attacked protesters.

    A fan poses in front of a poster of Barcelona FC where the picture of defender Gerard Pique has been vandalised outside the club's Camp Nou stadium which was closed as part of a general strike in Barcelona called by Catalan unions on October 3, 2017. Several hundred thousand Catalans rallied in fury at police violence against voters during a banned independence referendum, as Madrid accused regional authorities of "inciting rebellion". Barcelona football club refused to train as part of an accompanying strike, which officials said slowed down public transport and freight shipments in the port of Barcelona. Pique is an outspoken defender of the wealthy northeastern Spanish region's right to self-determination. / AFP PHOTO / Josep LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

    A fan poses in front of a vandalised Pique photo outside the Camp Nou.

    Dumbfounded at what had happened in his city, he didn’t need to say anything but felt he had to.

    And now as the issue has been magnified in a sporting sense with the Spanish national team convening for two World Cup qualifiers, he felt the need to speak again.

    Pre-match press conferences are, in the main, totally unremarkable. Players and managers sit for 10-15 minutes, mostly answering variations of questions they’ve heard several times before.

    Most of the time the subjects at the table want to get away as quickly as possible. But in Pique’s case, upon sitting down he said, “I will answer all your question and stay here as long as it takes.”

    Whether or not he got his message fully across – his love of Catalonia but also a loyalty to La Roja and pride of performing for Spain alongside his team-mates – will be witnessed at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez in Alicante on Friday night.

    But jeering sportspeople with opinions is particularly pertinent with what has occurred in the NFL with players following Colin Kaepernick and taking the knee.

    It’s clear is there are considerable sections of fans uncomfortable with those who they seek entertainment from doing anything beyond, “what they’re paid to do.”

    We’re content liking banal Twitter posts, scrolling through tedious Instagram images and watching the daily deja vu of post-event TV interviews, cluttered with cliches.

    But anything presented of substance, or off-message seems alien. Surely the sporting world is a richer one when the individuals who inhabit it are exactly that; singular minds capable of thinking for themselves, even if you agree with them or not. Muhammad Ali’s greatness is carved by as much as what he said, as it is what he did inside the ring.

    The increasingly corporate blanket cast over professional sport limits how much we truly know about those who entertain us and we idolise. We’re presented an idea, a glossy representation but, in truth, is rarely accurate.

    Pique is one of the few willing to show their actual personality. It should be applauded, not derided.