By Ikenna Amadi

Albania head coach, Christian Panucci, has praised Spain centre-back, Gerard Pique, for having “big balls” while claiming that he can cope with the extra scrutiny on his performances.

The defender has been a spearhead for Catalan independence over many years which culminated in last Sunday’s referendum on the subject which was blighted by police violence.

This has not hindered the Barcelona star from speaking out in favour of the subject, exposing himself to attacks in Spain, which has strong opinions on the issue. Indeed, he was even jeered at during training earlier this week by fans.

Pique threatened to quit the national team over the events of last weekend, though he has since vowed not to retire.  His strong stance has won praise from the former Italy defender, who will be in the opposing dugout on Friday when the two sides meet in Alicante.

“I honestly think he’s got big balls and a lot of courage,” Panucci said. “I don’t want to get into his political affairs and other things, but I like people who are clear, with character and sincerity.”

“He’s got a lot of character. He’s a player of a very high level and he knows how to handle these things well so I don’t think it’s going to affect him very much.” He said.

Spain could potentially qualify for the World Cup on Friday, should they win and Italy fails to overcome Macedonia.

Author: Yemi Olarinre