LaLiga announced a partnership with Visit Saudi, the Saudi Arabian tourism board. Visit Saudi is a familiar sponsor among soccer fans. The tourism board sponsors Lionel Messi, but it made headlines for its relationship with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
However, LaLiga announcing a partnership with Visit Saudi is both hypocritical and ironic. LaLiga, as well as other top leagues in Europe, lost several players to Saudi Arabia due to better financial offerings. For example, Karim Benzema departed Real Madrid to join Al Ittihad in the Saudi Pro League.
Back in 2021, LaLiga President Javier Tebas said the Middle Eastern nation was using sports to clean its image.
“The Saudi Arabian government has a policy whereby they improve the image of the government through sport, whitewashing their image, and we all have a responsibility there,” Tebas said.
The official announcement on the LaLiga website promotes Saudi Arabia as the most exciting, year-round destination.
“This collaboration will amplify Visit Saudi’s work highlighting Saudi Arabia as the world’s fastest-growing destination, its rich and captivating cultural heritage, its diverse landscapes, and its role as a pivotal hub for unprecedented sporting and cultural interactions in today’s football landscape,” the statement read.
LaLiga and Visit Saudi create awkward relationship
LaLiga has put more of an influence on its reach in Saudi Arabia. Last season, the Supercopa de España saw Barcelona beat Real Madrid in Riyadh. The LaLiga release also stated the Spanish top flight has a strong following in Saudi Arabia. Consequently, this relationship makes sense.
LaLiga ambassador and Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas says LaLiga can build on the development of sports in the region.
“The great development of sport and sporting events in Saudi Arabia represents a real boost to the attractiveness of the destination, adding to its cultural interest and amazing landscapes,” Casillas said.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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