To say the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is ferocious would be an understatement – it is genuine hate – just ask Luis Figo. It’s a hate which stretches passed football, and to a political battle. Central Government versus Catalonia.
That’s why it seems such a surprise that the players act like best pals when on international duty, given that 94%, don’t quote us on that – but it’s probably accurate – are from Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The Spaniards managed to create a chemistry, which led them to back-to-back European Championship success, and the minor detail of one World Cup in the middle. Beyond impressive.
Yet, Gerard Pique is one of the chaps who doesn’t look like pushing these differences aside. The Barca man has always been vocal over Catalan Independence.
The defender famously put his middle finger up to a Spanish media camera before the Euro 2016 match between Croatia and Spain. And, the 29-year-old planted a Catalan flag in the middle of the pitch after Barcelona’s 2015 Champions League success.
The centre-half has gone one step further during Spain’s recent 2-0 victory over Albania, in their World Cup Qualifier. The ex-Man United man cut the edges from the national shirt, which have the Spanish colours on the edge of the sleeve, causing a trending SleeveGate… we love a good gate.
The gesture created backlash over social media, which saw the Barcelona defender getting plenty of stick online from Spanish fans.
Let’s just say, the reaction didn’t sit too well with Mr Pique. The No. 3 released a statement after the game – telling the media – how he will retire after the 2018 World Cup.
“I have tried everything, but I can’t bare this anymore, today’s issue of the sleeves is the straw that breaks the camel. They’ve managed to make me lose the excitement of coming here and although after Russia I’ll only be 31, I’ll leave.”
Christ. We’ll see if Pique is true to his word in a couple of years, but it does not come as a huge surprise in light of the Barcelona man’s continual vocal support of the Catalan region.