Barcelona’s Gerard Pique has announced that he will retire from international duty after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The distinguished defender made the announcement in controversial circumstances following Spain’s 2-0 win in Albania on Sunday.
As a player who has been booed by his own fans in the past for his support of Catalonian independence, Pique’s decision to wear a shirt without a Spanish flag trim on the sleeve attracted wide criticism on social media.
Pique, who had cut off the sleeves on his jersey, was accused of making the modification to avoid wearing the band with the national colours.
After facing such criticism, the Spanish Football Association released a statement to explain and defend Pique’s decision.
“The Royal Spanish Football Federation wishes to show its support to the international footballer Gerard Piqué,” the statement said.
“The RFEF wishes to explain that said band on the Adidas jersey only exists in the short sleeve version, and not on the long sleeve, which is the one Piqué used in the match. The absence of the bands can be seen on the intact version of the jersey worn by teammate Sergio Ramos, who did use the long sleeve.
“Gerard Piqué cut the sleeve with the sole aim of playing more comfortably, the same way other players have done on many occasions.”
Despite his centrality to Spain’s success in recent years – Pique was part of the Vicente del Bosque side that won the World Cup and European Championship double – the 29-year-old remains unpopular with some of the country’s fans.
Sunday’s controversy proved to be a breaking point for the defender who subsequently announced his retirement.
“I have tried everything, but I can’t bear this anymore,” he said.
“Today’s issue of the sleeves is the the straw that breaks the camel. They’ve managed to make me lose the excitement of coming here and although after Russia I’ll only be 31, I’ll leave.”