Italian Super Cup in Saudi backfires as PM slams men-only attendance as ‘disgusting’

January 4 – Italy’s deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has condemned as “disgusting” restrictions imposed on women at the Italian Super Cup being staged this month in Saudi Arabia.

Salvini, leader of Italy’s far-right League party, denounced the fact that sections of the King Abdullah Sports City stadium for the January 16 fixture between Juventus and AC Milan will be reserved for men only.

In a Facebook video, Salvini, a passionate Milan fan, said: “To have the Italian Supercoppa being played in an Islamic country where women cannot go to the stadium unless they are accompanied by a man is sad. It’s disgusting. I won’t watch the game.”

Organisers of the fixture, Serie A, defended the decision to hold the game overseas in Saudi Arabia and contradicted Salvini’s claim that women couldn’t enter the stadium without a man.

The head of the Serie A, Gaetano Micciché, defended the decision and said there would be no change of heart. In a statement he said women would not have to be accompanied by a man to get into the stadium, adding that this would be a “historic first”.

Serie A said 50,000 tickets had been snapped up and insisted sections designed for “families” were mixed gender.

A ban on women attending some football matches in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom was partially lifted a year ago as part of a wider relaxation of social restrictions.  “Until last year, women (in Saudi Arabia) could not attend any sporting event,” Micciche said. “We are working to ensure that in the next games that we play in the country, women can access all the stadium seats.”

The Supercoppa final has been played abroad several times, with the United States, China and Qatar previous foreign venues. The encounter between Juventus and AC Milan is part of a three-match deal with Serie A signed last year with Saudi Arabia worth €22 million.

However, as this website reported last month, Qatar-based pan-regional broadcaster beIN Sport has written to Serie A to ask the Italian league to reconsider deal. A letter from beIN’s chief executive, Yousef Al-Obaidly, to Serie A’s general director, Marco Brunelli, protested the decision in light of the ongoing piracy by Saudi channel beoutQ.

The decision to go ahead had already caused controversy in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Giorgia Meloni, head of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, called for the final to be postponed. “It should be organised in a country that respects our women and our values,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

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