Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)
Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

La Liga in Egypt

The Spanish football league is expanding worldwide, including in Egypt, reports Inas Mazhar


Commonly known as La Liga, the Primera División is the top professional association football division of the Spanish football league. Administrated by the Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP), La Liga is contested by 20 teams, with the three lowest-placed teams relegated to the Segunda División and replaced by the top two teams in that division plus the winner of a play-off.

La Liga is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world, with an average attendance of 26,741 for league matches in the 2014–15 season. This is the sixth highest of any domestic professional sports league in the world and the fourth highest of any professional association football league in the world, behind the Bundesliga, the Premier League and the Indian Super League.

And, in order to ensure that La Liga integrates with other nations, it has established offices in countries around the world and assigned delegates to follow up their projects.

Juan Fuentes Fernandez is La Liga’s Global Network delegate in Egypt. In an exclusive interview, Fernandez told Al-Ahram Weekly that La Liga is broadcast in almost every country in the world. “We can proudly say that it is one of the most followed sports shows in the world. In the last three seasons the audience has more than doubled. This is due to the new strategy of La Liga where we have played hard to drive our audiences up, especially abroad. We need to be international, digital, communicate with our fans globally but also locally, find commercial partners, also in both levels and adapt our strategies to all countries,” Fernandez said.

He added that they have surpassed 38 million followers on only their Facebook page “which is already more than the NBA. La Liga has managed to gain more than five million followers on Facebook. In Arab countries, it has become the competition in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with the highest number of followers.”

Fernandez told the Weekly why Egypt was chosen among other countries to have a Global Network office. “La Liga has chosen 43 strategic countries and sent over La Liga delegates. The programme is called La Liga Global Network. I am La Liga’s delegate to Egypt. The idea is to be close to our fans, to the media, to our local partners, learn about all of them, improve our know-how and find more opportunities for La Liga and for our clubs. It has been less than a year since the project started but as for now the outcome is very positive.

“Egypt was chosen and I am here because we care about our Egyptian fans. We have millions of followers in Egypt who watch La Liga matches every match day. Our fan base in the country is quite important even worldwide. Just on Facebook we reach almost two million Egyptian followers. It must be said that all La Liga matches are broadcast every weekend in Egypt on the beIN sports channels. Not just matches, but also highlights and other special programmes such as La Liga World, La Liga Cities, etc.

“Furthermore, in Egypt there are two official fan clubs: Real Madrid Café Cairo (Nasr City) and Barça Cairo Fans (Sheikh Zayed City). They gather in almost every match and hundreds of people meet to watch the match and feel the mood as if they were in La Liga stadiums. I have been with them already; it is impressive to see the way they feel their colours.”

Fernandez also said Egyptian clubs like Ahly and Zamalek are popular in Spain. “People know Ahly and Zamalek. Both are teams that hold international titles and have played with Real Madrid and Barcelona, and also with other La Liga teams such as Atletico Madrid (last December) and Getafe (2015).”

Fernandez also spoke about the feedback of Spanish football academies established in Egypt. “So far, in Egypt, Real Madrid, Barça, Atletico Madrid and Real Valladolid have established football academies.

“Football academies are such an incredible tool when it comes to football development globally. First, it is powerful overseas as La Liga teams throughout their academies and high-qualified coaches encourage children to play the best football. This has results improving sports performance, talent development and also scouting in the country.

“I am happy to say that in Egypt we are about to open La Liga academies soon. The idea behind that is not just to find talent pools of future professional football players or to raise the awareness about the football team in a territory, but also to improve football globally. In La Liga we are very committed and proud to do so not just through academies but also by signing MOUs with federations, sports organisations that might find in La Liga a way to improve their knowledge. We are proudly collaborating with several sports federations and organisations worldwide.”

La Liga’s delegate to Egypt explained the role and contribution of La Liga in increasing the popularity of the Spanish league worldwide.

“On the one hand, in La Liga we realised how important it is to be abroad. We started opening offices worldwide and nowadays we have offices in the USA, Mexico, Brussels, Nigeria, South Africa, Emirates, Singapore, China (Beijing and Shanghai) and India. As I said before, we also launched La Liga Global Network which I am working in, with the idea to have a global presence in 43 countries in every continent.

“On the other hand, we realised years ago we were not any more just the competition’s organiser. We are global entertainment. We want people to watch us and we need to work hard to be on the top and to be the best league in the world. We have the two strongest teams in the world. Last year we won almost all the international competitions, not only teams as Real Madrid and Barça, but also Atletico Madrid, Villareal, Sevilla, Celta de Vigo are doing great in top European competitions. But still, we need to work more.

“Nowadays we are competing not just with the other top European football leagues, but also with high quality TV shows such as Game of Thrones and platforms such as HBO and Netflix to gain more viewership. In La Liga, in order to further increase our popularity, we are very committed to providing the best quality product, to understand our fans, to be close to all of them globally and to open our organisation to innovation, technology, to be transparent. By doing so, the popularity of La Liga is increasing.

“From my viewpoint, the magic of football is that it is not just any movie or TV show you watch and like it or not. We are in people’s hearts since they become our fans until the end. They feel the passion of our teams and colours and people are crazy about football. There is nothing more powerful than that.

“Three years ago I met Youssef, a street kid in downtown Cairo. He had a very old Messi jersey. We kicked around a bit with a plastic bottle. At some point, I wanted to understand how passionate he was about Barça. I told him, ‘let’s switch. I give you my iPhone so you can play some games but you lend me your T-shirt for a while’. The kid, who was very friendly, became serious and told me ‘Khalas, no way I give you my jersey.’ He ran away. As we now proudly say: It’s not football. It’s La Liga.”

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