Gerard Pique: Barcelona man prepared to quit Spain duty amid independence debate

Barcelona line up for the pre-match

Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu claims the decision to play yesterday's match against Las Palmas behind closed doors was an act of protest amid attempts by the Spanish government to halt the Catalan independence referendum.

Barcelona, which openly backed the referendum, had wanted to postpone the game, but its request was denied by the Spanish league.

A tearful Gerard Pique described Barcelona's victory over Las Palmas which was played behind closed doors after violence marred Sunday's Catalan independence referendum as his "worst experience as a professional". "We have decided instead of abandoning the game, which is what we all wanted, to play the game in an exceptional manner, which is to say behind closed doors".

The push for independence of Catalonia, a nation in the north-eastern part of Spain that's home to 7.5 million people, has caused tension around the country.

The first decent chance, for Barcelona, didn't come until the 21st minute when a free-kick from Lionel Messi proved a fine save from the Las Palmas goalkeeper, Leandro Chichizola.

"The board tried to postpone the game, we debated it between the players and the club, and chose to play".

Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona all announced on Monday that they would be joining a region-wide general strike in Catalonia on Tuesday, Oct. 3 following the weekend's events.

The game, which Barcelona won 3-0 thanks to second-half goals from Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi (2), was played against an eerie backdrop of 99,000 empty seats in the Camp Nou.

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With the players voices and those of the touchline staff being the only noises heard Barcelona struggled to get going early on.

"In Catalonia they have injured a lot of people, people who only went to schools to vote", said Guardiola, who also captained Barcelona during a stellar playing career.

"Not playing it would've meant the loss of six points". The match was played out in an echo-filled, empty stadium, filled with only the players on the field, the substitutes, team employees, and a few members of the press.

"We do it to tell the world that we feel pain for what is happening".

"Las Palmas could have been limited to being a silent witness of this historical crossroads or to take sides".

Prior to the kick-off, FC Barcelona pose for a team photo wearing shirts in the colours of Catalan flag.

The Catalan football federation cancelled all local games organised by the federation, majority involving youth squads and lower divisions. And we want to give our support to everyone. "Let people vote peacefully".

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