Barcelona’s Catalan defender Gerard Pique was targeted by angry Spain fans on Monday as he took part in an open training session with the national team the day after the Catalonia independence referendum that was declared illegal by the Government.
Centre-back Pique, who voted in the referendum and has criticised police violence against voters which resulted in hundreds of injuries, has long been targeted by Spain fans but Monday’s barrage of insults was particularly severe.
Spain supporters at the Las Rozas training facility in Madrid jeered, whistled and chanted at Pique to leave the team, who are preparing for two World Cup qualifiers, brandishing banners carrying insults aimed at him.
Spanish media reported that police confiscated some of the banners, including one which described Pique as “sickening”.
“The behaviour of Gerard has been exceptional,” coach Julen Lopetegui told Spanish radio station Cadena COPE.
“I wanted to see how he was and I saw he was motivated and enthusiastic. He’s well and fired up, if it were not like that he wouldn’t be with me.”
However Lopetegui defended the decision to hold the training session in public, adding: “It would have been an error to train behind closed doors. The fans have the right to express themselves.