FC Barcelona to join Catalonia strike – as their defender Gerard Pique is jeered in Madrid during training with Spain
No teams will train and club HQ will close in protest against government attempts to stop independence referendum
FC Barcelona is joining a strike to protest against the Spanish government’s actions in Catalonia’s independence vote – as their outspoken defender Gerard Pique was jeered by spectators at Spain’s training camp in Madrid.
Barcelona said none of their professional or youth teams will train on Tuesday, and the club headquarters will be closed as a reaction to government attempts to stop the referendum on Sunday. Officials said more than 890 civilians and some 430 members of the police force were injured.
Girona also suspended training on Tuesday, and Espanyol, the other Catalan club in the Spanish league, will have its players undergo physical activities behind closed doors at its training camp.
Pique, who supports an independent Catalonia, was booed constantly as Spain trained. He endured chants, sometimes laced with expletives, of “Spain is your nation.” Some held cards against him, including one that read “Out Pique.” Policed deemed one of the cards too offensive and removed it.
Pique is often jeered by fans when Spain plays outside Catalonia.
He was in tears on Sunday after the Spanish league game against Las Palmas as he talked about confrontations between Catalan voters and police, who used batons and fired rubber bullets to try and stop voters across the region. He criticised police again on Monday on Twitter.
Pique said after on Sunday that if the national team considered him a nuisance, he would have no problem stepping aside. Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has previously defended Pique when the player’s loyalty to Spain has been questioned.
Spain is preparing for World Cup qualifiers, the next on Friday against Albania in the southeastern city of Alicante.
Barcelona tried to postpone their home match on Sunday during the referendum but the league denied the request, so they closed Camp Nou to spectators to send a protest message and avoid losing points and being sanctioned. They beat Las Palmas – pointedly sporting Spain flags on their shirts – 3-0.
Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said the decision to play behind closed doors was one of the hardest he had to make at the club. He consulted club officials, coaches and players.
“We knew that an empty Camp Nou would send a powerful message,” he said in a news conference on Monday. “Everybody would be asking about what was happening in Catalonia. The game was broadcast around the world. It was an extraordinary measure for an extraordinary moment.”
Many club members didn’t want the team to play at all on Sunday, but then it would forfeit the three points from the match and risk losing more points from a sanction.
Bartomeu said an empty stadium was the best way to show the club was not pleased with the incidents in Catalonia.
“The news of the suspension would last only one minute,” Bartomeu said. “In the end, what we did lasted for 90 minutes.
“This is why Barcelona is more than a club.”
Bartomeu avoided talking about Barcelona’s future in the Spanish league if Catalonia declares independence. The league has already said it may no longer be able to accommodate Barcelona.
Most voters called for the region’s independence, but Spain doesn’t recognise the referendum as legit.
One of the main symbols of Catalonia, Barcelona has openly backed the region’s rights to hold the referendum.
Barcelona’s employees on Monday held a 15-minute strike to condemn the violence used by authorities.
Espanyol said it will respect its employees’ decision on whether to strike, while Girona said the entire club will be closed.
“The club condemns the violent and repressive actions carried out Sunday in Catalonia and shows its support and solidarity with the country’s citizens and institutions,” Girona said in a statement.