Spain on Friday becomes the first European country to play in Equatorial Guinea, but it does so amid controversy. According to Jacinto Lara, head of the Spanish branch of Amnesty International (APDHE), FIFA should cancel the game due to “kidnapping, torture and executions” in the country under the regime of President Teodoro Obiang, who is viewed as a dictator. “[Spanish soccer federation president Ángel María] Villar cannot sit at the same table as Obiang, a dictator who commits abhorrent crimes and who is seeking to make political use of the world champions,” Lara said.
AS claims that Spain’s soccer federation (RFEF) consulted the Spanish government before green-lighting the friendly in Malabo. Even so, the RFEF maintains that there is nothing political about Friday’s game. “People want to turn a sporting matter into a political one, and they’re managing it,” the RFEF said. “But if Spain are playing in Equatorial Guinea, it isn’t to pander to Obiang, but to give the Guinean people something to cheer about and to provide financial help to the country’s football federation, which is penniless. That’s why we’re going for free.”
Despite this, Lara claims: “There’s only one thing worse than playing there, and that’s the world champions having their photos taken with the dictator.” But the RFEF insists that will not happen: “There will be no photos or receptions with Obiang. Our contact with him will be limited to the match, if he is in attendance,” an unnamed high-ranking official tells AS.