All of a sudden, I see the Spanish Government are objecting to the Spanish Super Cup, Rubiales’ flagship project, being played in Saudi Arabia. It was announced by Spain’s minister of Education, Isabel Celaá, and confirmed by the Secretary of State, María José Rienda. The objections certainly have solid foundations: the deplorable treatment of women in Saudi society. Spain does have an ambassador in Saudi Arabia with which the emeritus king, Felipe VI, maintains friendly relations and even visited him recently, and Spain also enjoys healthy commercial relations with the country, most notably with the construction of a high-speed train to Mecca and the strong involvement of a consortium of Spanish constructors in the project.
Spanish football around the world
Rubiales’ idea is for the Spanish Super Cup, lost in the thicket of pre-season tours and friendlies, to become a global event which brings together Spain’s league and cup champions and runners-up in two semi-finals and a final after the Christmas break. In other words, a way of expanding the image of Spanish football around the world and ensuring higher revenues for Spanish clubs. I think it’s a good idea. Initially, Saudi Arabia was chosen because it put forward the best offer, but now the whole thing is facing unprecedented backlash and football, with all its power, is not immune to suspicion.
The power of sport and football
Of course, I find women’s position in Saudi society abhorrent. However, I am also convinced that sport, be it the Olympics in China, a World Cup in Qatar or a humble Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, can be infectious in a positive sense. It shows host countries that there are other ways of life and it can spark positive change. Football is the most popular sport and what Spain possesses is among the best of the best. This footballing embassy can show the Saudi people, women and men alike, the possibility of a different world that has changed considerably over the past fifty years, a world to strive for.