Russia 2018: Trying to push Pique out would only harm Spain's chance of World Cup glory

Yahoo Sport UK

“Tweet something like: ‘Unfortunate not to get the three points today but we’ll bounce back next week. The fans were fantastic, we can’t get out of this situation without you.’” Modern football is full of players who are in no control of their image and instead leave social media to their PR department. The fear of losing a major sponsorship deal is greater than expressing what you truly feel.

Fans, in turn, begin to hate these soulless drones of standard responses. To many, these players are heroes or beacons of hope. They want to believe that the person who occasionally replies is the footballer himself, maybe before he starts training or after he’s had lunch. Imagine Harry Kane telling Kate to wait a second because he’s doing a quick Q&A on Facebook. Instead it’s probably Bob from ‘Team Kane’ saying a lot but at the same time saying absolutely nothing.

Footballers who express their opinions are a rarity these days

A person who can’t be accused of hiding behind a team is Gerard Pique. The often-controversial defender is someone who embraces the personal touch social media can bring. Sure, like others, there’s the odd promotional tweet but 99% is Pique, raw and uncut. So why is there a backlash to condemn a man who is merely sharing his opinion on a personal, sensitive subject matter?

The reaction to events in Barcelona last Sunday are vastly difference here to the rest of the world. While in England, France and Germany there was criticism of the heavy-handedness of the Spanish police, in Spain it was hailed as defending the county’s best interests. The overwhelming idea is that violence is justified when the people on the receiving end are doing something illegal.

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Pique, a proud Catalan and Spaniard, took exception to his country’s way of dealing with the problem. “I thought they would try to stop the vote in a peaceful way. Everybody has seen it. They have made things worse.” This is essentially the underlying fact behind Sunday, surely there was a better way to combat the vote than hitting everyone in sight?

Wanting a vote isn’t the same as wanting independence

“You vote yes, no or leave a blank vote, but you vote. In the Franco era, we couldn’t defend our ideas. I am and I feel Catalan.” In the aftermath of the farcical behind closed doors match against Las Palmas, Pique was happy to express his thoughts on matters in Barcelona. He is a staunch campaigner for Catalans to have the right to vote. “Being in favour of allowing people to vote in a referendum has nothing to do with being in favour of (Catalan) independence.”

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In an interview with El Mundo last year. Pique claims he dreams of seeing a world without flags. While Pique is by no means a modern-day John Lennon he isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in. “I’m Spanish, my wife is half Lebanese and half Colombian, my children are Catalan, Spanish, Lebanese and Colombian.” Yet why shouldn’t he express his opinion when he sees acts being committed that he doesn’t agree with?

Could Pique quit the national team before Russia 2018?

Following his most recent comments there have been calls for him to quit international football. The idea being that if he doesn’t feel proud of his country he shouldn’t represent them. “My commitment to the national team is maximum. I feel very proud to be here. I have thought about it and I think the best thing is to stay. Going would mean that those people have won, those who think the best solution is to whistle and insult. I’m not going to give them that satisfaction.”

It feels crazy to think someone who has won both the World Cup and European Championships with his country should see his commitment questioned. I’ve yet to see Pique ever say he wants Catalunya to be independent or would represent them over Spain. It’s a fabricated argument which only serves those who don’t like a man for having an opinion different to theirs.

And whether people want to admit it or not, a lot of the hate towards Pique is born of jealousy. Every club would love to have a player who’d never disrespect the shirt he wears. So many tap or kiss the club’s badge only to switch teams and do the exact same elsewhere. Whatever happened to loyalty, or players who genuinely give a shit? Pique is a symbol of the modern Barcelona and in turns this makes him an enemy of Real Madrid.

Ramos and Pique are different but at the same time very similar

I’d imagine it’s the same way a lot of Barcelona fans feel about Sergio Ramos. He and Pique are opposites in terms of personalities but both wear their hearts on their sleeves. Even if you disagree with one of them, they are proud to stand up and defend what they believe in. Behind the hate, deep down, is a begrudging respect for how much they love their club. It’s a bond you can’t buy, not even when prices are as high as they are now.

It’s important that people such as Pique, and Ramos, aren’t gagged and made to fall in line. In an ever-increasing world made of PR-controlled robots they appear to be a dying breed. For certain sections of society and the media to try and force Pique out of the National team would only weaken their chances of reaching the top again.

And much like with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, there isn’t any bad blood between the two Spanish defenders. In fact, they are closer than ever and according to Pique want to go into business together once they’ve retired from the game.

Not everything has to be black or white

As a society we are in danger of becoming far too totalitarian. Whatever happened to moments of grey, why is every subject either black or white? We’d all get along much better if we’d open our minds to the complaints of those who don’t agree with us. Instead the modern world seems to be about surrounding yourself with only those who nod at all you say. This in turn creates divide, an us and them vibe, which only weakens the sum of the whole.

This isn’t about whether or not you agree with Pique’s comments but in allowing a person to express their own point of view without being hung, drawn and quartered for it. You can be proud of your country without needing a tattoo of its flag on your leg. You can question a person’s motives without smacking them across the head first. No person, country or union is perfect, but freedom of expression should never be oppressed.

“I’m not on the front line. I don’t think I have ever positioned myself on one side of another. My opinion isn’t that important. I have never fought tooth and nail to defend a particular side. Some say there should be independence, some say there should be a vote, and others say there should be nothing. All three points of view are valid.” If only those attempting to shut down Pique had such open minds when it comes to controversial topics.

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