Spanish football authority keen to build on following in the region
There are no immediate plans to bring a LaLiga match to the Middle East, according to the league's managing director for the Middle East and North Africa,
Spanish football has a huge following in the Middle East region, with social media channels close to reaching 15 million followers.
Maite Ventura, the recently appointed LaLiga managing director for the Middle East and North Africa, told Arabian Business: “LaLiga is the most followed competition in the region, and we have millions of fans that watch Spanish football in the region, but we expect to become even bigger in the coming years.”
Middle East fans will have to wait to see the likes of Lionel Messi, Luiz Suarez, Luka Jovic, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa come to the region.
Ventura said: “We continue to work hard to make the idea of an overseas match in North America a reality, and hopefully bring it to other parts of the world after that.”
Barcelona were scheduled to play a league match in January against Girona in Miami, but plans were shelved with the Spanish champions backed out of the fixture.
The withdrawal came a day after the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final between River Plate and Boca Juniors was moved from Buenos Aires to Madrid’s Santiago Bernabau stadium after fan violence in Argentina saw the initial game postponed.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, however, who has opposed La Liga’s plans, has stated that the South American championship tie was moved due to exceptional circumstances and that it would not signal the start of other finals being played in different territories.
However, the Spanish football authority is committed to finding the next football stars from the Middle East.
LaLiga opened its first High Performance Centre in the world in the UAE in 2016, where the best football talents are scouted to train with the best LaLiga coaches.
Ventura said: “So far, 10 players have been rewarded with professional contracts with clubs and national teams in many different countries.
“We also have 800 players training in LaLiga Academies launched in Egypt, Jordan and UAE, in which boys and girls can play football under LaLiga methodology.”
LaLiga opened its first international office in Dubai back in 2013.
Ventura joined LaLiga in 2017 and, for the past two years, has been managing different institutional, sport focused, and socio-educational projects in the MENA region hoping to grow the business, promote new future talent and leaders, using football as a developmental sport to achieve these goals.
Some examples include, the launch of LaLiga academies in UAE and Jordan, the launch of the first women focused football projects in Kuwait, socio educational projects in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, and projects with federations and institutions all over the MENA region.