Anger at Spanish Super Cup Held a Long Way from Home in Saudi Arabia

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Amr Nabil/Associated PressDuring the week, the Barcelona-based sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo published a cartoon of Barca’s coach Ernesto Valverde hanging under a giant cow’s udder, which has the word “Supercopa” scrawled across it.Valverde is desperately holding onto one of the cow’s teats, which are leaking €500 notes. There’s no mistaking the message: The re-invention of the Spanish Super Cup—which is being held this week in Saudi Arabia in a new “final four” format—is all about milking the tournament for money.There are three fundamental changes to the old, traditional format: It is no longer a two-legged playoff between the previous season’s league and cup winners; instead those two clubs are joined by the second-placed teams from both competitions (or the next-highest-ranking league finisher in the event one club fulfils more than one qualification method, as Barcelona did this season) to make up semi-final pairings.The competition has been moved from its pre-season slot in August to mid-season in January, and, most contentiously, it is being staged 6,000 kilometres from Spain in a country that has been heavily criticised for its human rights record. (The previous season’s edition was tinkered with, too, by staging a one-off match in August 2018, with Barcelona beating Sevilla 2-1 in Tangier, Morocco.)When asked about the restructured competition in a press conference before Barcelona played Atletico Madrid in the second of the tournament’s semi-finals, Valverde said he preferred the old format, which didn’t have two “invited” teams in it. He has no illusions that the new structure is a money grab: “Now football is an industry that is always looking for new ways to generate income, and for this reason we’re here.”Real Madrid’s player Dani Carvajal responded acidly to Valverde’s comments by suggesting the Barcelona coach should make a “formal complaint” if he’s not happy with the tournament’s structure, while the Royal Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales also dismissed Valverde’s criticisms, pointing out that his club were in agreement with the new format.”The Royal Spanish Football Federation has changed the essence of the competition,” says Joan Poqui, a journalist with Mundo Deportivo. “By changing its natural format and location, it’s no longer a Super Cup of Spain. It’s a serious injustice to both sets of fans because—in the case of Barcelona and Valencia who were winners of the league and cup, respectively—they’ve lost the chance to watch a game in their own sta

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