BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Faced with criticism from human rights groups, the president of the Spanish Football Federation defended the return of the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia as Real Madrid prepared to play Athletic Bilbao in Sunday’s final.
Amnesty International had asked four teams traveling in mini-tournaments to wear armbands to protest the suppression of women’s rights and the attacks on the LGBTQ community in the country. No team did this in this week’s semi-finals, when Madrid beat Barcelona 3-2 in extra time and Bilbao gathered ahead of Atltico Madrid 2-1.
Federation President Luis Rubiales insisted that the decision to take the new version of the Super Cup to the kingdom was also good for the money it brought to Spanish football which is said to be around 30 million euros ($ 34 million) a year until 2029 and for that which he called the small steps he encouraged for Saudi women.
We were the first to sign a contract that made it mandatory, if they wanted us to bring the Super Cup here, leave the women in the stadiums, and they are there, and we have helped build a women’s soccer league in Arabia Saudite. Rubiales told Cadena SER radio on Thursday night.
Ethically, we are doing a lot here to help develop women in football, which is our commitment. The rest of the political issues are off the football field.
While the women were at King Fahd Stadium for the semifinals, the crowd was overwhelmingly male.
Cadena SER radio presenter Angels Barcel, whose morning show is watched by nearly three million listeners in Spain, called the federation and clubs hypocritical.
No regime would pay millions of dollars for someone to come on board to change a regime that has no plans to change itself, Barcel said. Spanish football is tainted with this competition, as well as the teams that take part in it. After all, everyone will have more money in the bank, but from now on just do not let them tell us about values and fair play.
Amnesty International believes progress is too small in return to help the regime connect with some of the most fascinating clubs in the world. The human rights organization has criticized the systematic abuse of homosexuals and persistent discrimination against women.
The fact (is) that the Spanish football federation has decided to cooperate in this whitening of the image of the Saudi authorities, said Esteban Beltrn, president of Amnesty International in Spain.
If we have seen some progress in the last three years, such as the lifting of the ban on women driving and their ability to play sports, including the establishment of a women’s soccer league, unfortunately President Rubiales’s intentional words in 2019 (that the Super Cup would help modernize Saudi Arabia) are far from a reality.
When asked about his stance on Amnesty’s plea for the teams to wear the protest ribbons, Rubiales complained that the rights group went public with their campaign the day before sending a written request to the federation in an attempt. to create a noise.
So far, the only player who has spoken out against taking over the games in Saudi Arabia is Bilbao striker Rul Garca. But he focused his criticism on the inability to play in front of his team fans. Bilbao’s victory over Atltico drew a much smaller crowd than Wednesday’s clsico between Madrid and Barcelona.
The tournament was first played in Saudi Arabia in 2019 shortly before the pandemic hit. Health and travel restrictions forced the federation to send him back to Spain last year, with Bilbao beating Madrid and Barcelona to take the trophy.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is looking for his first title in his second position at the top of the Spanish league. Ancelotti will be without defender Dani Carvajal, who tested positive for COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia on Friday. Shaped striker Vincius Jnior could be suspicious as a muscle problem demanded his replacement against Barcelona.
Bilbao will again hope to rely on brothers Iaki and Nico Williams in Iker Muniain attack and games.
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