The Spanish national side has been accused of offering support to Equatorial Guinea’s dictatorial regime by agreeing to play Saturday’s friendly in Malabo.
The controversial fixture was only announced last week after other plans for Spain to play a game in nearby Gabon, or against Russia in Dubai, fell through.
Equatorial Guinea co-organised the 2012 African Nations Cup with Gabon, but has never hosted a visiting European side. Under long-serving dictator Teodoro Obiang, it is claimed that little of the money from the country’s booming oil industry goes to its people, while human rights abuses are reportedly widespread.
Wenceslao Mansogo, human rights secretary of the opposition party Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), told El Pais that games such as Saturday’s against Spain are used by the regime to cover up the country’s many serious issues.
“The government takes advantage of such events to give an image of normality, so people forget about the oppression,” Mansogo said. “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.”
Spain coach Del Bosque told El Larguero last week that he was not entirely comfortable with the situation, but suggested the game had been organised due to the close links between Spain and its former colony.
“We do not want to get into political matters,” Del Bosque said. “There are countries which are maybe not total democracies. It is a country which is independent at the moment, but was dependent on Spain in the past.”
Equatorial Guinea are coached by former Spain U21 boss Andoni Goikoetxea -- the ex-Spain international famously nicknamed The Butcher of Bilbao -- and Del Bosque added: “There is a Spanish coach there who was with us in the federation.
“There is a good relationship between the countries. We are giving people a chance to see the world champions. I understand what you are saying, but we do not get into that.”
Beyond Goikoetxea, many of Equatorial Guinea’s players were born in Spain, including captain Rodolfo Bodipo, a veteran Deportivo la Coruna forward who was born in Seville.
Spain, who are to stay at the 580-million-euro ‘Sipopo’ luxury hotel complex, will be the first non-African national team to play in Guinea. The Nzalang have only once before faced non-European opposition, when they took on Estonia in Tallinn in 1993.
Mundo Deportivo claims the squad has been promised a five-million-euro bonus by the country’s vice-president, the dictator’s son Teodoro Nguema Obiang, should they defeat the World Cup holders.
Spain's other friendly during the current international break is in South Africa, with the Spanish FA (RFEF) billing it as a chance to “demonstrate its gratitude for the wonderful hospitality of the South African sports authorities and the support of the country’s football fans during the 2010 South Africa World Cup.”
The RFEF has been criticised in the past for arranging friendlies for non-footballing reasons, with La Roja having travelled to Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica, Dubai and Puerto Rico for games in recent years, while other countries concentrate more on playing serious rivals in European venues.