Barcelona to join Catalonia strike, Pique jeered in Madrid

ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 03, 2017 09:18 AM
Barcelona to join Catalonia strike, Pique jeered in Madrid
Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Las Palmas is played at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Barcelona's Spanish league game against Las Palmas is played without fans amid the controversial referendum on Catalonia's independence. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press

Barcelona is joining a strike to protest against the Spanish government's actions in Catalonia's independence vote.

Also, outspoken defender Gerard Pique was jeered by spectators at Spain's training camp in Madrid on Monday.

Barcelona said none of its professional or youth teams will practice 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 practice 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 supported the referendum, was booed constantly as Spain practiced. 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 of 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 northeastern region. He criticized 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 its home match on Sunday during the referendum but the league denied its request, so it closed Camp Nou to spectators to send a protest message and avoid losing points and being sanctioned. It beat Las Palmas 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.

The majority of voters called for the region's independence, but Spain doesn't recognize 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.

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