Pique willing to 'take step back' from international duty

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Alex Caparros / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Football wasn't spared from a day of violence in Catalonia. As 761 people were treated by the autonomous community's emergency services after police violence marred the independence referendum, Barcelona took the pitch behind closed doors at Camp Nou, and Gerard Pique said he's willing to pull off Spain's shirt if he's a "problem."

Pique voted in the referendum before Barcelona's 3-0 victory over UD Las Palmas. After the match, he condemned the police's actions and noted that he's willing to abandon international football.

"I think I can continue because there are many people in Spain who disagree with what happened today and believe in democracy," he said. "But if the board really thinks I'm a problem, I will take a step back and leave the national team before 2018."

Pique also declared, according to Marca: "I am proud of the Catalan people. This has been my worst experience."

The 30-year-old, whose last appearance for Spain will be at the 2018 World Cup, added a photo to Twitter that shows him at a polling station. "I have already voted," Pique wrote. "Together we are unstoppable defending democracy."

Salut, Catalonia's department of health, announced that 335 people in Barcelona required assistance after a violent crackdown on the referendum. Videos showed police dragging voters by their hair, throwing people down stairs, and attacking Catalan firefighters who were trying to protect polling stations. Mariano Rajoy, Spain's prime minister, praised Spanish police for defending the law and claimed: "No referendum has been held in Catalonia today."

Some Barcelona players reportedly weren't sure whether they had to play the game, according to Marca, and while most of them opted to leave the pitch following a short warm-up, Pique remained on the field in defiance. Before the Blaugrana's board of directors decided the game would be played behind closed doors, Grada Animacio FCB, one of the club's supporters' groups, threatened to "run onto the pitch" and "make a peaceful sit-in" if the match wasn't suspended.

Often jeered because of his pro-Catalonia stance, Pique was named to Spain's squad for its two 2018 World Cup qualifiers in October.