Spain vs England friendly moved to Alicante
Spain vs England friendly moved to Alicante as Spanish FA fear fans’ abuse of Gerard Pique will continue at Santiago Bernabeu.
The Spanish FA (RFEF) have moved Spain’s friendly with England away from the Santiago Bernabeu because they fear another embarrassing display of abuse aimed at Gerard Pique.
The World Cup winner and European Champion is understood to be completely unaffected by the bizarre treatment received from his own supporters in Spain’s last game against Slovakia on Saturday, but Spanish football chiefs have still taken the extraordinary step to switch venues away from Spain’s most prestigious stadium.
Roy Hodgson’s team were due to play the current European Champions on November 13 at the 85,000 capacity home of Real Madrid, but the game will now be played in Alicante at the Jose Rico Perez stadium – a 30,000 venue that is home to a Spanish third division side, Hercules.
Pique was an integral part of the Spain team that won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012. He has played 70 times for his country and is comfortably their best defender alongside Sergio Ramos.
But that all seemed loss on the mindless minority in the crucial European Championship win over Slovakia who booed his every touch in the second half of the 2-0 win.
Spain boss Vicente del Bosque described the abuse as ‘unfortunate’ and Pique’s team-mates jumped to his defence and condemned the lack of support. The Spanish FA are hoping that there is no repeat in the future but some voices inside the RFEF believed the Santiago Bernabeu was the worst possible venue for the England friendly and have taken the decision, despite the huge drop in prestige and possible ticket sales revenue.
Spanish fans jeering their own players is nothing new with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo both victims at Real Madrid but the national side has won three of the last four international tournaments and for the most part the golden generation has until now received nothing but adulation.
Most Spanish commentators believe Pique is being targeted because of comments made in Barcelona’s celebrations of the treble last season, and again in the celebration of the European Super Cup this summer.
Spanish daily AS reported on the aftermath of the booing on Monday morning, with their headline reading: ‘Pique boos create an entanglement’.
In the treble celebrations at the Camp Nou in June Pique took the microphone and thanked players, coaching staff and fans and he then joked: ‘And thanks to Kevin Roldán, you were the start of everything’.
The joke was a reference to Roldan’s appearance at Cristiano Ronaldo’s birthday party the night after Real Madrid had been beaten 4-0 in the Madrid derby and the subsequent publication of images of the celebrations that caused uproar among some Real fans and seemed to exacerbate a poor run of results that ended up costing Carlo Ancelotti’s side the league title.
After winning the Uefa Super Cup in August Pique also made reference to Real Madrid in the celebrations urging his team-mates to do their lap of honour in style so that it would be seen by their great rivals.
Pique was also part of the Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao King’s Cup final last season and the Spanish Super Cup last month and witnessed both sets of supporters whistling the Spanish national anthem played at the start of both matches.
It seems that Real Madrid sympathizers, and possibly those offended by the booing of the anthem, were out in force on Saturday in Oviedo and Pique was their target.
He is understood to be completely unaffected by the abuse and celebrated Spain’s win over Slovakia by going to a night club in nearby Gijon after the game. The night out was authorised by Spain coach Del Bosque who said he was not upset by the player winding down after the crucial victory.
Spain play in Macedonia on Tuesday and then finish their qualifying campaign home to Luxembourg and away to Ukraine. England will be the visitors in November and with the world watching Spanish football chiefs did not want an embarrassing repeat of the Oviedo game where despite many supporter’s efforts to drown out the abuse with applause it was still audible.
An estimated 85,000 sell-out at the Bernabeu with Pique the singled out by home supporters had become the Spanish FA’s worst nightmare.