Football: La Liga president Tebas says Singapore could host league match

La Liga president Javier Tebas is keen to have more Spanish top flight matches played abroad to increase the league's profile. COURTESY OF LA LIGA

MADRID – An El Clasico clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona or the Seville derby between Real Betis and Sevilla played in front of a 55,000 crowd at Singapore’s National Stadium? As far as La Liga president Javier Tebas is concerned, that is no pipe dream.

The outspoken Spaniard does not rule out the possibility of the Republic playing host to a match of such significance someday. Speaking to Singaporean media on Tuesday at the league’s headquarters in Madrid, the 60-year-old lawyer by trade was visibly excited when his idea of having La Liga matches played abroad was brought up.

When asked if Singapore was a possible location for such a match, Tebas broke into a wide smile and said: “Singapore will be a great place to have a La Liga match but for the moment and we are still working on this possibility (of having a match played abroad).

“We have had conversations with the Spanish Football Association to try and get a match played abroad. We are still trying and working on that arrangement. In the short term, it is not possible but we will try. We would like the fans abroad to feel the experience of being at a La Liga match.”

First elected as president in April 2013, Tebas has made no secret of his plan to hold a La Liga match abroad. His idea has perhaps been boldened by the success of the National Football League which has in recent years boosted its profile overseas by hosting annual matches at Wembley Stadium, giving foreign fans the opportunity to watch the sport live.

In 2019, the La Liga released a statement to announce its plans to stage a match in the United States with Barcelona facing Girona in Miami. The Miami match, which was pencilled in for Jan 26, would have been the first game to take place as part of a 15-year deal struck between LaLiga and entertainment company Relevent Sports Group (RSG).

But the plans for the match was derailed after Barcelona withdrew their support for the game. LaLiga’s hopes of staging domestic matches abroad were also dealt another blow after a Spanish court ruled all league games must take place in Spain. The Spanish top flight and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) have been contesting a legal battle over proposals to take matches to the United States.

The RSG owns and operates the International Champions Cup, a pre-season tournament which has seen the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Juventus amongst others play matches here. The last edition was held here in 2019 with over 52,000 packing the stands at the National Stadium to watch the Red Devils clinch a 1-0 win over Italian side Inter Milan.

Singapore and La Liga already have strong ties. Since the opening of its office in Singapore in March 2017, La Liga have made various developments in the local scene including its ongoing partnership with the government backed Unleash the Roar! (UTR) initiative where several coaches have been helming the School Football Academy programme since July.

Meanwhile, on the day that news broke of former Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Manchester United with immediate effect, Tebas was also asked if he would love to have the Portugal forward back in the Spanish top flight along with Argentinian icon Lionel Messi.

Spanish newspaper Sport has previously claimed that Real Madrid could complete a memorable reunion with the 37-year-old Ronaldo while there have also been reports that Messi could seek a return to Barcelona when his contract with French giants Paris St Germain expires at the end of the current season.

Tebas said when asked if the return of the two icons would be a big boost for the league: “Of course, I wish they can come back. But they are not the only ones that I would want back. Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola were also big names in the league. But La Liga has still continued to work without these superstars when they left. La Liga is more than just about one player.”

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