Gerard Pique plays for Catalonia in friendly against Venezuela

Gerard Pique may have retired from playing for Spain in 2018 but he was still in international action on Monday.

The Barcelona defender, a World Cup and European Championship winner with Spain, played for Catalonia in a friendly against Venezuela.

Catalonia are not recognised by football governing bodies Fifa or Uefa so the match does not have official status but was played in front of a near capacity crowd in Girona.

It is Pique’s 10th cap for the region and his first since he retired from playing for Spain following the 2018 World Cup.

Catalonia won the game 2-1 with Stoke City striker Bojan scoring the opening goal.

Venezuela, who beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina last week, equalised through Roberto Rosales but Espanyol’s Javi Puado scored the winner for the home side in the 87th minute.

Brighton full-back Martin Montoya and Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu, as well as Real Betis’ Marc Bartra, also featured for Catalonia.

Some Spanish clubs had prevented their players joining up with the squad but said the decisions were due to injuries rather than political reasons.

Former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi was called up but was unable to play because of club commitments with his Qatari side Al-Sadd.

Catalonia is a semi-autonomous region in north eastern Spain, which means it has significant governing powers of its own.

The Catalan government held a referendum on 1 October 2017 and declared independence from Spain weeks later but Spanish authorities said the vote was illegal.

Pique, who won 103 caps for Spain, has given his support for Catalan independence in the past and was often jeered by Spain supporters when playing for the national team, in part as a result of his stance on the issue.

A number of leaders of the failed independence bid are currently on trial in Spain, facing charges including rebellion and sedition.

BBC Sport

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