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Spain won't say why it's playing Equatorial Guinea

November 14, 2013
Associated Press

MADRID (AP) — Spain's national soccer team is playing an exhibition game at Equatorial Guinea. And the country's soccer federation won't say why.

The decision to play a game at the former Spanish colony has drawn the ire of the country's opposition in exile group in Madrid, and raised questions about what benefit the World Cup champions expect to get out from playing the team ranked 119th in the world.

The federation said it will not be paid any extra fees to play the game. When directly asked why the game is being played, federation president Angel Maria Villar refused to answer.

"I won't answer this question," Villar said on Thursday. "Ask anything else, but I won't respond to this one."

Spanish players have reportedly refused to pose for photographs with President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who is Africa's longest serving strongman and accused of human rights violations and corruption.

Spain will become the first nation from outside Africa to play in Malabo since Obiang took power. Equatorial Guinea is coached by former Spain international Andoni Goikoetxea.

Over 14,000 people have joined the opposition group in calling for the match to be halted by signing a petition on change.org.

"The adequate decision for everyone, in our opinion, would be that the game is not celebrated," the group said in a statement on Thursday. "If not, Spain will pay a hefty bill for falling into this trap, and not just from an economic standpoint."

Amnesty International, EG Justice, and Human Rights Watch are among those who have criticized Obiang's government over other issues such as politically motivated arrests and lack of freedom of speech. Obiang seized power in a 1979 coup.

Spain's players were left in the firing line of reporter's questions after the federation refused to make any official comment on the match.

Striker Fernando Llorente was being asked his opinion of the situation, but team spokeswoman Paloma Antoranz interjected for a back-and-forth where she said the players would not answer questions on the topic.

Llorente eventually answered: "I only want to talk about sport, everything else I don't want to talk about it."

Marc Bartra, who had just received his first call-up and has yet to play a game for Spain, did not elaborate.

"We try to stay out of all this and to focus on the football," said defender Raul Albiol, who pleaded ignorance on the issue of team photographs with Obiang. "The country, its government, that is something apart.

"We're here to play a friendly and nothing more."

Defender Sergio Ramos was critical of another extended travel plan that will see Spain return to South Africa for a friendly on Tuesday, in its first return since it won the World Cup there in 2010.

"It's clear that these long trips are not enjoyable for anybody," Ramos said. "We can try new tactics heading into the World Cup which is always something positive."

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Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter @PaulLogoAP

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On the Web:

http://www.change.org/es/peticiones/que-la-selecci%C3%B3n-espa%C3%B1ola-de-f%C3%BAtbol-no-juegue-en-guinea-ecuatorial

 
 

 

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