Barcelona’s Gerard Pique was reduced to tears by the images of police brutality against people trying to vote in a referendum in Catalonia on Sunday.
The region’s mayor said over 460 people were injured when riot police stopped people accessing polling stations in the referendum declared illegal by Spain’s ruling Partido Popular.
And Pique said playing in an empty Nou Camp after the club decided to play behind closed doors was the worst experience of his career.
Sergio Busquets scored the opening goal in a 3-0 win over Las Palmas on Sunday
Filling up with tears in front of reporters he said: ‘There was no act of aggression from the people today and yet the police have acted in the way that they have acted today.’
Barcelona asked for the game to be called off but they were told they would forfeit the points and be given a further three point deduction and so they decided to play without supporters in protest.
‘It was very difficult to play without our supporters and after all that has happened throughout Catalonia. It was my worse experience as a player,’ Pique said.
‘Grandparents have gone with their grandchildren today and have tried to vote and the images speak for themselves.
‘All the protests have been non-violent but everyone has seen the way police reacted today and I think there will be consequences.’
Pique would not confirm he was one of the voices in the dressing room that wanted to the game to be postponed. He said: ‘ There were arguments to play the game today just as there were arguments to not play the game.
Lionel Messi scored the second and third goals as Barcelona made it seven wins in seven
Barcelona line up for the pre-match photo in the colours of the Catalan flag
‘In the end the league and Las Palmas wanted to play the game. There were all sorts of opinions and in the end the club made the decision to play the game.’
Asked if he would have played the game had it been his decision, he added: ‘My opinion doesn’t matter very much. Lots of players expressed an opinion before the game. The club decided to play and we united behind that decision.
‘But I understand perfectly why a lot of the supporters will think that the team should not have played this game today.’
Pique has been accused of being contradictory by backing the referendum while playing for Spain who he joins up with this week for international duty.
But he said: ‘Well backing the referendum, you can then vote yes or not [for independence]. Or you can spoil your paper but you vote.
‘During many years people could not vote here and this is a right that should be defended by all means within the law possible. I am Catalan and I feel Catalan and today more than ever I feel proud of the Catalan people.
‘I think I can keep playing for the Spain team because I think that there are many many people throughout the country that are completely against the acts we have seen today and who believe in the democracy.
Thousands of spectators were left stranded outside the Nou Camp unable to take their seats
‘If the Spain manager or the Spanish FA think I’m a problem then I have no problem in stepping aside and leaving the team.’
Recomposing himself Pique said: ‘We are up against a ruling party that uses all means possible to lie. There are people who think that the Catalans are the bad guys; we are not the bad guys, we just want to vote.’
‘Joining up with the Spain team is not a patriotism competition. There are players who were not born in Spain and have given everything when they have played for Spain. It’s about giving everything which I have always done.’
Asked how he managed to get through the 90 minutes against Las Palmas he added: ‘I just wanted it to end as soon as possible.
The game with Las Palmas was played behind closed doors due to health and safety concerns
The players line out on the pitch ahead of kick-off in front of the empty 99,354-seated stadium
‘I thought the police might try to stop the vote but in a peaceful way. That was not the way it turned out. At least everyone has seen the images.
‘They have only made the gap between Catalonia and Spain open up even more and that will have consequences. But it is in the hands of a President who goes around the world and can’t even speak English. So it’s difficult.
‘In spite of the violence they did not respond. And for all that they want them to enter into the trap and respond with violence I hope they continue as they have today. That they sing loud and that the protest in peace.’
The match was close to being postponed due to clashes in the city