Spain seems to be hell-bent on cementing itself as the worst-run major European soccer federation. The latest head-scratching move comes from the recently concluded investigation by the league’s “anti-violence committee” into Gerard Piqué for his crime of being outspoken and hilarious on Twitter.
As we’ve touched on before when some of this anger about Piqué’s willingness to speak his mind got folks in a tizzy, the Catalan defender is probably the loudest, brashest, most set-repping Barcelona fan in the world. He has long been a somewhat controversial figure in Spain, in part because of his penchant for verbally mixing it up with Real Madrid players and fans and his (completely justified) lack of remorse for doing so.
The past year has been especially eventful for Piqué on this front. With Barcelona winning nearly every single trophy available and the indignities both large and small they’ve faced from those across the country who don’t exactly exalt in the continuation of the Barça hegemony, Piqué has had ample opportunity to stunt on the haters in the most ostentatious ways possible. As of late, this has taken place on Twitter.
Let’s run through some of Piqué’s social media highlights to get a feel for his particular brand of Barcelonismo. Immediately following a win against Getafe, he and a few other players came out of the dressing room fully decked out in costumes:
This, of course, became A Thing. The disguised Barça players burst (they claim accidentally) into an ongoing press conference with Getafe players, which was evidence of the Barça boys’ lack of respect for their opponents. In addition, photos later came out depicting the Getafe visitors’ dressing room completely trashed, with paint sprayed all over the bathroom.
As this Barcelona fan pointed out, though, there were discrepancies in the pictures, which seemed to indicate that the dressing room had been tampered with after the Barça players had already left:
This supported Piqué’s and his teammates’ version of events, that they’d left the place in fine shape and it was in fact someone at Getafe who came in and wrecked the place to make the Barça players look bad. Piqué slyly referenced this in response to the above tweet:
Translation: “Be quiet @pepemonne, they make and unmake [the story] however they want. The bottle of paint I left in my locker was almost full”
Translation: “And by the way, who was the one who returned to use the press to filter more “private” stuff and try to blame us? Nice try!”
Saucy comeback, Gerard!
After Barcelona’s beatdown of Real in El Clásico—the one in which Piqué made every effort to push forward from his spot in defense to score his team’s fifth goal and was so visibly upset when Munir passed up an opportunity to play Piqué in for a tap in—Piqué was criticized in the media for trying to heap on the embarrassment by scoring again. A couple days later, Piqué did get a goal thanks to a Messi assist, and he joked about the incident and the response:
Translation: “Thanks Leo, you gave [the goal] to me, not like @Munirhaddadi! Very happy for the victory, for qualifying and for the goal.”
Translation: “After once again looking for a goal unabashedly, today I had the reward itself.”
The next series of Twitter beefs dealt with Real’s Copa del Rey debacle, which we’ve already talked about. However, Piqué didn’t stop needling Real players and the media that loves them. While competing in the Club World Cup, Piqué retweeted this, pointing out the difference in how some in the media treated the competition depending on who was playing in it:
And, when Barça won the trophy, he basically flashed his rings (the trophy emojis here representing the number of trophies Piqué has won in his career) in the face of former Real player Esteban Granero, who had hit out at Piqué in the media for popping off at Álvaro Arbeloa:
That brings us up to the current controversy, which was apparently the final straw in the eyes of the Spanish soccer federation. Three of Barcelona’s last four matches have come against city rivals Espanyol—one in the league, and two in the Copa del Rey. In that first match, Espanyol eked out a goalless draw at home, stopping Barça’s historic attackers in large part by just kicking the shit out of them. Physical play straddling (and crossing, in the case of the Espanyol keeper’s concerted effort to grind his cleats into Messi’s leg) the line between what should and shouldn’t be allowed is a tried and true strategy for underdogs seeking to unsettle favored opponents, but it’s incumbent on the ref to maintain order by correctly handing out yellow and red cards when they are deserved. The ref that day did not maintain order, and so Barcelona players, fans, and media supporters sounded the alarm on Espanyol’s perceived thuggery.
The heightened tensions from that first match were maintained in the second, though this time Barcelona came out on top while two Espanyol players were sent off (though the refereeing on display was often just as baffling). In his on-field postgame remarks, Piqué took a shot at Espanyol fans by criticizing the self-described “Marvelous Minority” for not showing up for the earlier match on Espanyol’s home turf. A little while later, as the players made their way off the field, players from both teams engaged in some sort of scrap in the tunnel.
Seeing how heated everything had gotten, the Spanish authorities felt they had to do something. Luis Suárez was suspended two Copa games for his (alleged) involvement in the tunnel scrum, and the anti-violence committee began its investigation into Piqué, apparently trying to tie his tweets to the physical altercations between the two teams.
As all the criticism of Piqué for his words and actions in the Barcelona Derby flew around him, Pique retweeted a video depicting some of the abusive chants Espanyol fans had aimed at him before, wishing death to his son, Milan, and calling his wife, Shakira, a whore, along with the phrase, “You will never understand it,” a popular Espanyol slogan:
The news of today is that the committee has finished its investigation and relayed its findings to the Spanish soccer federation’s disciplinary committee. That committee could chose to fine Piqué or even suspend him for actual of matches.
At this point there’s no way of knowing how the committee will look at Piqué’s public antics, and judging from so much of the overreaction in response to the defender’s social media presence in the greater Spanish media, it would in no way be a shock if they sought to make an example of Piqué here. How anyone can read these tweets, or see in Piqué anything other than a chest-thumping and successful athlete who isn’t afraid of displaying his personality. The Spanish federation, if it cared at all about concepts of fun and harmless humor and fairness, should be trying to inspire more Piqués, more players confident enough to be themselves in front of the world without fear of official punishment. Instead, they choose censor the one we’re fortunate enough to have.
Photo via Getty