Gerard Piqué: back of the net

When we saw that the phenomenal and intrepid Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated had caught up with Gerard Piqué and his slice of goal net from Soccer City, we thought we’d dig up Graham Hunter’s account of how the Spain and Barcelona defender acquired his keepsake.

This is from SPAIN: THE INSIDE STORY OF LA ROJA’S HISTORIC TREBLE

We pick up the story immediately after the 2010 World Cup final, deep inside Soccer City stadium.

Not long afterwards, Gerard Piqué emerges. He is still in his boots, shorts and vest and he has the tiny nail scissors from the first-aid kit in his hand as he marches down the tunnel, toward the pitch. A couple of minutes later he is back, very distressed, demanding of a tournament official: “Where is the goal net? Where have the goal nets gone?”
When they show precious little interest in his enquiry or even basic politeness to him, he explains to me that he always cuts a souvenir piece of net but, this time, he has been too late. They are gone. I volunteer to join the quest and with the help of a streetwise stadium volunteer kid, we trawl through the entire underbelly of Soccer City.

Everybody wants a piece of Piqué. The kid has made him promise that there’ll be a reward of a Spain shirt in this for him, but when the extent of his inside knowledge turns out to be how to get to the vehicle tunnel to the pitch, Piqué very nearly eats him alive. Then we mistakenly burst in on a room where the take for the food, programmes and refreshments is being counted. Finally, we persuade the security into letting us into the stadium manager’s office.

Yes, says one member of staff, the nets are here.

No, says one another, you can’t have even a couple of centimetres from them. But, while we’ve got you here, can we have a picture? An autograph?

They are now dealing with an increasingly angry 6’3″ World Cup winner. As he poses for yet another photograph with staff who are not helping him in his quest for a memento, he turns to me and says, in Spanish: “I’ll punch him, we’ll grab the nets and make a run for it.” Instead, the stadium manager finally arrives, as do some tournament staff. It ends in a net gain.