Barcelona (AFP) – Former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez said on Sunday that his Qatari club would not release him to play for Catalonia against Venezuela.
The match in Girona on Monday is politically fraught, with the status of autonomous community Catalonia a subject of ferocious political conflict within Spain.
“I regret to announce that finally I will not be able to be in Montilivi for tomorrow’s Catalonia-Venezuela,” Xavi wrote on Instagram.
“My commitments with my club did not allow it. I hope next time I can be there with you. In Qatar you will have the first of your fans cheering our team.”
The game was expected to be the 39-year-old Xavi’s last for Catalonia and the organisers had reportedly planned to honour him at half time.
“The over-riding commitments of his team, the Al Sadd Club of Qatar, in the last stages of the league have made it impossible,” the Catalan Football Federation.
While Xavi’s former Barcelona team-mate Gerard Pique is expected to play, several Spanish clubs have refused to release players for a friendly that is not a recognised international.
“I put myself in the shoes of their coaches and I have no problem in understanding,” said coach Gerard Lopez. “They play a lot.”
Venezuela are preparing in Spain for the Copa America. On Friday, they beat Argentina in Madrid.
After the victory, coach Rafael Dudamel offered to resign after accusing Antonio Ecarri, representative in Madrid of Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido, of using a meeting with the team for political purposes by tweeting photos.
Dudamel said he would lead Venezuela on Monday and then discuss his future with the president of the country’s football federation.
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