BARCELONA: FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said he was ready to leave the Spanish national football team if he is not wanted.
Pique, who has been booed by Spanish national team fans for years for his perceived support for Catalonian independence, posted a photo on Twitter that showed him voting in the banned independence referendum on Sunday, reports Efe news agency.
"If the coach or anyone in the federation thinks of me as a problem or a bother, I have no problem in stepping aside and leaving the selection before 2018," Pique said teary-eyed after Barcelona's 3-0 win over Las Palmas at Camp Nou, a match played behind closed doors and overshadowed by the turmoil surrounding the controversial plebiscite.
Pique also criticized Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for the way the government and police dealt with Sunday's plans for a referendum, which was ruled illegal by the highest rung of Spain's judiciary, the Constitutional Court.
"Everybody saw what happened, and this decision has made things a lot worse," he said, apparently referring to police intervention that, according to regional authorities, left more than 700 people injured. "It's one of the worst decisions this country has taken in the last 40 years because it's only separated Catalonia from Spain even more."
He accused the ruling conservative Popular Party of "using all means at its disposal to lie, because over these years they've said that it was a small minority and that we demonstrated in a rowdy manner. Yet it was apparent we're not a minority, because we were millions of people and it wasn't rowdy."
"Today more than ever I'm proud of the people of Catalonia because I think they've behaved wonderfully in the last seven years," Pique added.