Spanish FA defends Super Cup in Saudi Arabia ahead of final

Spanish FA defends Super Cup in Saudi Arabia ahead of final
President of the Spanish Soccer Federation, Luis Rubiales, left, and Saudi General Sport Authority GSA chairman Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal enter a press conference behind the Spanish Super Cup in Jiddah Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. Facing criticism from human rights groups and concerned Spanish media, the president of Spain’s soccer federation defended the return of Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia while Real Madrid prepares to face Athletic Bilbao in the final.

Amnesty International had asked the four teams that travelled to play in the mini-tournament to wear armbands in protest of the regime’s suppression of women’s rights and attacks on persons of the LGBTQ community. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File) AMR NABIL AP BARCELONA, SPAIN Facing criticism from human rights groups, the president of Spain’s soccer 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 the four teams that traveled to the mini-tournament to wear armbands to protest the suppression of women’s rights and attacks on the LGBTQ community in the country. No team did so in this week’s semifinals, when Madrid beat Barcelona 3-2 in extra time and Bilbao rallied past Atlético Madrid 2-1.

Federation president Luis Rubiales insisted that the decision to take the new-look version of the Super Cup to the kingdom was both good for the money it brought to Spanish soccer — reportedly some 30 million euros ($34 million) a year through 2029 — and for what he called the small steps it fostered for Saudi women. “We were the first ones to sign a contract that made it obligatory, if they wanted us to bring the Super Cup here, to let women into the stadiums, and they are there, and we have helped build a women’s soccer league in Saudi Arabia,” Rubiales told Cadena SER radio on Thursday night. “On an ethical plane, we are doing a lot here to help the development of women in soccer, which is our commitment. The rest of the political questions are outside the scope of soccer.”

While women were in the King Fahd stadium for the semifinals, the crowd was overwhelmingly male. Cadena SER radio host Àngels Barceló, whose morning show is followed by nearly three million listeners in Spain, called the federation and the clubs hypocrites. “No regime would pay millions of dollars for someone to come from aboard to change a regime that has no plans to change itself,” Barceló said. “Spanish soccer tarnishes itself with this competition, as do the teams that participate in it.

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