Gerard Pique is from Barcelona, so he knows full well the political and social divides that define the rivalry between the city’s two local clubs: FC Barcelona and Espanyol.
Which means he knew exactly what he was getting himself into during the recent Copa del Rey ties between the two teams when he told the press, “They call themselves the ‘marvelous minority,’ and they’re in such a minority that they can’t even fill their ground. Let’s see whether they manage to fill it for the return leg, because the other day it wasn’t full.”
In referencing the “marvelous minority,” Pique was of course referring to Espanyol’s second club status in the Catalunyan capital. Historically, FC Barcelona has symbolized Catalonian pride.
Conversely, owing in large part to its full name, Reial Club Deportivo Espanyol, the Blaugrana’s lesser-known neighbors have been associated with the Spanish establishment centered in Madrid, with the “Reial” in the name highlighting the fact the club has been “accepted” by the monarchy that once ruled the country.
Espanyol fans, though, will argue that they and their club are as much a part of Catalan as FCB, and that their ranks represent the working class of the city and region.
So if Pique was hoping for a response, he got one: During the return leg at Espanyol’s home ground, Cornella el-Prat, the stands were indeed full, and a group of the club’s ultras at one end of the stadium unfurled banners mocking the defender’s popstar wife, Shakira, and calling into question that paternity of the couple’s first son Milan (there have long been unsubstantiated rumors that the boy’s father is actually Shakira’s first husband).
One fan also came to the stadium with a pig’s head, which he planned to throw at Pique. The projectile never made it the pitch.
The Pique-related incidents were only part of the, er, “fun” at the stadium that day. Espanyol captain Alvaro was seen taunting Barcelona forward and Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi about his height, and Luis Suarez allegedly attempted provoke a fight in the tunnel after the match, according to the match report filed by the referee.
Suarez has been banned for FCB’s next two Copa Del Rey matches as a result of the incident, and Pique may face discipline over a tweet directed at Espanyol supporters that he posted after the match that read, “You will never understand,” and included a link to a video that captured their derisive chants.
The tweet has since been deleted.
Oh, and by the way, Barcelona won the tie by a 6-1 aggregate.