Spain Criticized For Playing in Equatorial Guinea

Teodoro Obiang

Although many suggest that politics and sports should never get involved, it seems impossible to separate the two, as international football doesn’t operate in a vacuum environment. Spain playing a friendly match against Equatorial Guinea, a former colony of theirs, has raised some ethical questions and criticism due to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the dictator leading the African nation for the last 34 years.

Spain will play a friendly match in Mabao, making it the first time a European nation has played in the small African yet oil-rich country that was a co-host in the 2012 African Cup of Nations along with Gabon. Obiang is often accused for embezzling funds into his own family’s back account in the United States (Riggs Bank), not to mention the torture and abuse he’s accused of when dealing with his opponents, using the military to have his way.

Wenceslao Mansogo, human rights secretary of the opposition party Convergence for Social Democracy, has spoken out against the match, claiming it’s being used as a cover up for the corrupt and cruel regime in the country.

The government takes advantage of such events to give an image of normality, so people forget about the oppression. That La Roja come here is indecent on Spain’s part. This is an advertisement for Obiang. I like football, and there are many fans in the country, but in this case reality is being covered up. There is no type of freedom, not of expression, opinion or movement within the country. The justice system does not work. There are arbitrary detentions and political and military abuses.

It’s quite obvious Spain are heading to Equatorial Guinea because of money, with some estimating the fee to their arrival being around €5 million. Vicente Del Bosque himself was asked about the matter, admitting he felt a little uncomfortable about the whole situation, but the close links between the countries (Obiang was educated in Spain) made it happen, and it’s only about football, leaving politics out of it.

Equatorial Guinea’s head coach is Andoni Goikoetxea, the famous Butcher of Bilbao. Many of the team’s players were born in Spain, including Rodolfo Bodipo, a veteran Deportivo la Coruna forward who was born in Seville.