Bilbao midfielder says dash-for-cash Spanish Super Cup ignores fans

January 12 – Athletic Bilbao midfielder Raul Garcia has criticised Spanish Super Cup organisers for hosting the four-team tournament in Saudi Arabia. 

The Spanish Super Cup kicks off today with the first semi-final between Spanish giants Madrid and Barcelona in the latest iteration of El Clasico at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. Bilbao and Garcia will face Atletico Madrid in the other semi-final at the King Abdullah International Stadium in Jeddah, where the final will also be played on January 16, but the midfielder has expressed his dismay over the organisation of the event.

Garcia said: “It doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s very simple: we are playing a tournament that is (normally) played in our own country and it doesn’t make sense to play it anywhere else.”

“It makes no sense to play a game there (in Saudi Arabia) that could be played here.”

Previously, the Super Cup served as the curtain-raiser to Spain’s domestic club season, but in 2019 the format was expanded to a four-team mini-tournament and the Spanish FA exported the new event to Saudi Arabia with a three-year deal worth €30 million. That partnership has been extended until 2029.

“Football has changed in the sense that no one thinks about the fans,” said Garcia. “What matters is generating (money) getting sponsors, and we are forgetting the basics regarding what football is. The atmosphere, families enjoying games together, kick-off times that suit spectators. It’s changed a lot since I started playing.”

In the first Saudi-based Spanish Super Cup, Real Madrid triumphed with a 4-1 win against crosstown rivals Atletico.

The Spanish match-ups add to Saudi Arabia’s growing portfolio of staging sports events, including the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua in 2019, the 2019 Italian Super Cup and the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Saudi Arabia is also bidding for the 2027 Asian Cup.

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