Soccer

“This country is bipolar”

Gerard Piqué on being a Catalan Spain star and Shakira's feelings for soccer

Gerard Piqué.
Gerard Piqué.CLAUDIO ÁLVAREZ

Speaking before Tuesday's World Cup qualifying round win against France, his 51st appearance for Spain, Gerard Piqué was relaxed, happy with his career and at becoming a father for the first time with his partner, the Colombian pop star Shakira.

Question. What did you want to be when you were a child?

Answer. This is what I wanted to do: play a big game like this against a team like France. It wasn't about money or fame: I dreamed of playing for Barcelona because I used to watch the games against Madrid. I watched the World Cup, the European Cups... I remember the 3-4 against Yugoslavia, Alfonso's goal, and me celebrating it at home. Hierro was my idol and I wanted Spain to win because he played for them, as well as Pep and Sergi, from Barcelona. I don't understand Catalans who say they want Spain to lose. Why would you want things to go badly for people like you, for Barcelona, and the Catalans? I always supported Spain.

Q. Have you ever been pressured over your loyalties?

A. Never. I mean, obviously, if you look at Twitter there is always somebody saying that you are betraying Catalonia... I have friends who are totally in favor of independence, but not even they have pressured me. What's more, they were at the final of the World Cup and the European Cup cheering Spain on, because in the end, there were 10 Barcelona players in the side.

Q. Next you'll be telling me that you're worried about the crisis. Have soccer players finally connected with reality?

A. Obviously we're worried about the crisis. Don't you think that I have friends who are unemployed, that I don't know what's really going on? People think that we live in a bubble, away from all reality, but it's not true. If you came into the locker room, you'd be surprised what you heard us talking about. One guy who goes mushroom picking, another who goes to Warner Brothers park with his friends, one who puts on meals at restaurants for 20 euros so all his people can go... We're 26-year-old guys. We're not that strange.

You'd be surprised what we talk about in the locker room"

Q. Some critics say that the side needs a change of style...

Q. Somebody asked me earlier if we needed to be more direct, to be more focused on counter attacking, and you say, haven't we understood yet that playing as we do has made us so successful, and the benchmark for global soccer. If we have been winning for the last six or seven years and winning in a way that people enjoy, controlling the game, with 70 percent possession, creating opportunities... why would we change? The whole world wants to play like Spain, and we're supposed to change our style, it's amazing...

Q. Did the draw with Finland last week create any doubts?

A. None. We have played that game a thousand times. Do you remember Switzerland in South Africa? Obviously, you can lose on the day, but what counts is what you won. The players have no doubts. People here say that the side is facing a crisis if you lose one game after doing what nobody else has done: the European Cup, the World Cup, and then another European Cup. This country is bipolar. The media and the fans are bipolar. It is very easy to talk when you win and to say that when you lose you should be playing differently. But it's not that simple.

Q. Did Shakira like football before she met you?

A. Well, she knew about it, but she had never heard of Messi! I have learned a lot about music. A song is the result of a lot of work, and in the end, you just hear three minutes and a half, but behind it there is so much work.

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