Pique and football’s political correctness

Last Thursday, Gerard Pique gave one of the best press conferences I remember in recent years. The Barcelona player was whistled in their last games for the Spanish national team and therefore felt the need to speak with the media, and explain his views on the subject.

The result was a gem. In a world where political correctness seems to be the rule, the defender said what many players think but rarely dare to express for fear of reprisals.

First, he made clear what most of the sports press thought, that the whistles had nothing to do with his performances with the Spanish National Team, but the mocking words that Pique has dedicated to Real Madrid in recent years.

Nowhere else this would make sense but in Spain, where clubs are clearly identified with political causes, the merengues with the concept of a unified Spain and Barcelona with the independence of Catalonia.

But even if there is an explanation that does not mean you it makes sense, especially for a player who has won a World Cup and and a Euro with the Spanish team, that he he has defended 65 times. True, he has never hid his political preferences, but he has always been there for the National team when they have needed him.

What followed in the presser was the really funny –and interesting- part. The defender acknowledged that he hates Real Madrid, and always wants them to lose. Not only that, he revealed that when Casillas wrote to congratulate him on his birthday, he shot back saying "thank you, hopefully they score for on you in the derby against Atlético." And Madrid let in, in fact, four in that game!

For some unfathomable reason, football has become an almost antiseptic space. When Samuel Eto'o celebrated a title with Barcelona chanting "Madrid cabrón, saluda al campeón!” (“Madrid, bastard, greet the champions!") he was forced to apologize the next day. So did Jack Wilshere who sang anti-Tottenham tunes with Arsenal fans.

This is not to excuse insults, but many times we go to the other end. The rivalries between teams are part of the fun of football and fans identify with the players defending their colors. Since when we became so politically correct?

We have created a language of androids, a bizarre world in which we make fun of the players that say in every interview "We made a great effort, we will improve the next game," but criticize them if sometimes they cross the line .

Consequently, some players, especially at Real Madrid, have started using friendly reporters to send messages that they should be saying themselves. The clearest examples were Iker Casillas and Jose Mourinho who fought a war signed by other people in the daily pages, but that also happened with Sergio Ramos and his contract renewal this summer.

At least, the reactions to what Pique said were much more positive than usual. Even Real Madrid supporters expressed in social networks that they would love to have players who express so clearly their love for their club.

Perhaps, in that sense, we should try to get the foot off the brake a little and take  football as it really is, a pastime and a source of fun, where violations of political correctness should be admitted from time to time.

Ultimately, we have much fonder memories of George Best, Paul Gascoigne, Eric Cantona or even Zlatan Ibrahimovic, than the droids we've helped to build in these last few years.