Pique in tears after closed-door win: 'My worst experience as a professional'
BARCELONA -- An emotional Gerard Pique described Barcelona's 3-0 win over Las Palmas as the "worst experience" of his professional career after the decision was taken to play the game behind closed doors due to the political climate in Catalonia -- and he says he is prepared to quit national team duty with Spain.
There was uncertainty in the buildup to kickoff whether the game would be played at all, as Spanish police attempted to shut down Catalonia's referendum on its independence.
However, with less than 30 minutes until the match was due to start, Barca confirmed it would go ahead, but behind closed doors, despite the thousands of supporters waiting outside Camp Nou.
"It was a really difficult game to play," Pique, in tears, told reporters after the game. "It was my worst experience as a professional.
"We all gave our opinions [in the dressing room], there were pros and cons for playing, but in the end, we decided to play. I understand that there are supporters who do not understand that decision."
Pique was among those who did vote in the referendum -- which has been deemed illegal by the Spanish government -- on Sunday after he had promoted the people's right to self-determination earlier in the week via social media.
That had drawn criticism from some sections of the sports press in the country, and his continued presence with the Spanish national team has been called into question.
"If anyone believes I am a problem for the federation, I will step aside from the national team before the World Cup [in Russia next summer]," he added.
"Going with the national team is not a competition in patriotism, it's about trying to play the best you possibly can."
Barca had tried to call the game off earlier in the day, but with La Liga saying they had to play, they would have faced a six-point punishment if they'd not fulfilled the fixture -- a three-point deduction and forfeiting the match.
"When we came here we were planning for all outcomes," coach Ernesto Valverde said in a news conference.
"The club tried to call the game off, but it wasn't possible. So the club wanted to make a gesture [by playing behind closed doors] due to the exceptional situation taking place in Catalonia.
"It's a decision taken by the club in a delicate moment for everyone. I know the club wanted to postpone the game, but it was not able to do so.
"We hoped that the day would pass in a calm manner, but it hasn't been the case. We hope things can be sorted out, but I'm not a politician."
Midfielder Sergio Busquets, who opened the scoring in the win before two Lionel Messi goals, said it was a weird experience to play without any supporters inside the ground.
"It was strange, it wasn't normal," he said. "Today's events marked the game. I don't like at all that it had to be like this.
"We were aware what was happening. On a sporting level, though, it would have affected us a lot if we didn't play [a possible six-point penalty]. So the agreement was reached to play the game."
On the pitch, Busquets' goal and Messi's double extended Barca's winning streak to nine games in all competitions, and they go into this week's international break with maximum points from their seven league matches.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.