Pique to quit Spain team after lat­est con­tro­versy

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

In­flu­en­tial Spain de­fender Ger­ard Pique has said he will re­tire from in­ter­na­tional soccer after the 2018 World Cup, be­cause he is “tired” of the crit­i­cism lev­elled at him from sup­port­ers. The Barcelona cen­tre-back was the fo­cus of at­ten­tion in Sun­day’s World Cup qual­i­fier with Albania after hav­ing cut off the sleeves from his shirt which bore Spain’s colours of yel­low and red. Pique, who has an awk­ward re­la­tion­ship with Spain fans for his re­peated jibes at Real Madrid and his sup­port for a ref­er­en­dum on Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence, was heav­ily crit­i­cised on so­cial me­dia and in the sports press for the act.

He stunned re­porters after the game by declar­ing he was ready to quit the na­tional team. “Yes, I’m tired of it and the World Cup in Rus­sia is go­ing to be my last com­mit­ment with the Spain team and then I hope I can be left in peace,” Pique said on Sun­day.

“I cut my shirt be­cause the sleeves were very short and they were both­er­ing me. I’ve tried ev­ery­thing but I can’t take it any more, the thing with the sleeve is the straw that has bro­ken the camel’s back.”

Pique has made 86 ap­pear­ances for Spain and won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Euro 2012. He was also present in Spain’s dis­ap­point­ing cam­paigns in the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016.

The out­spo­ken Barcelona-born de­fender, how­ever, does not en­joy the same rap­port with Spain sup­port­ers as his in­ter­na­tional team mates. He was re­soundly booed in a friendly with Costa Rica in 2015 after mak­ing a joke about Real Madrid’s Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and those wounds were re-opened on Sun­day.

“They have suc­ceeded in killing my joy in play­ing for Spain and even though after Rus­sia I’ll only be 31, I’m go­ing to quit then,” added Pique. “I have al­ways tried to give ev­ery­thing but while some peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate that oth­ers think it’s bet­ter for me not to be with Spain.”

He added his de­ci­sion to not quit im­me­di­ately was be­cause of the in­flu­ence of new man­ager Julen Lopetegui, who re­placed World Cup win­ning coach Vi­cente del Bosque ear­lier this year.

“I’m very ex­cited with this new project with Julen and I don’t want to quit at all,” Pique added. “I’ll keep play­ing un­til the World Cup. We’ve started this to­gether and we’re go­ing to fin­ish it to­gether.” —Reuters

SHKODER: Albania’s Ansi Agolli (L) vies with Spain’s Ger­ard Pique (L) dur­ing the World Cup 2018 qual­i­fier foot­ball match Albania vs Spain in Loro Borici sta­dium in the city of Shkoder on Sun­day. — AFP

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