Barcelona defender Gerard Pique admits he is ready to quit the Spanish national team having offered his support for Catalan independence.
La Liga leaders Barca beat struggling Las Palmas 3-0 behind closed doors after a request to have the game postponed due to local turmoil amid the Catalonia independence referendum was rejected.
Pique spoke passionately about his views on the issue after the game, and said if the Spanish FA do not want him with the national side, he will step aside.
“I go to play with the (Spanish) national team because I believe in democracy and there are a lot of people in Spain who don’t agree with what has happened today,” Pique told Spanish TV.
“The person who goes with the national team, isn’t the most patriotic, you have to go and perform to your maximum. It’s not a competition of patriotism, it’s about going and giving all you can to win – that’s how I understand it.”
“If anyone in the federation believes I should not be there, I will step aside.”
According to Catalan health officials, more than 750 people were injured as security forces used rubber bullets and baton charges as they clashed with protesters.
Pique, who has been vocal in the past on the issue and gave a tearful interview, said playing in an empty Nou Camp was the worst experience of his career.
Pique said: “After what has transpired it has been my worst experience as a professional.
“It’s been a hard day for families, children, grandparents and the images speak for themselves. The protests didn’t have any type of violence and the images have now been seen around the world.
“The club committee tried to postpone the game then they came to the dressing room and, as a club, we debated it and decided to play.
“There were arguments for and against playing, we took into account the points at stake. Las Palmas and La Liga wanted the game to be played and there’s no point in going over it again.
“My opinion matters little, there were a lot of people in the dressing room who expressed theirs and in the end we decided to play.
“I understand those who didn’t want to play and I don’t think the ‘Mes que un club’ (club motto – means “more than a club”) went before this decision but I understand those who didn’t want it to be played.”
Pique went on to criticise Spanish police, saying protestors did not use a single act of violence.
“When you vote, you can vote yes, you can vote no or you can leave it blank. In this country, during Franco’s regime, you couldn’t vote and that’s a right we need to defend.
“I feel Catalan and today I defend the people of Catalonia because there wasn’t a single act of aggression and the police and civil guard have come and done what they’ve done.”