Sergio Ramos has said he and Spain teammates are a bit fed up with having to travel so far so often to play friendlies, while avoiding commenting directly on the controversy around La Roja’s game against Equatorial Guinea on Saturday.
The game has been criticised by both opposition politicians in the African nation and human rights groups in Spain and internationally, with claims the 2010 World Cup holders are being used by the country’s dictator Teodoro Obiang to project an image of a normal country while hiding its vast inequalities between rich and poor and reported human rights abuses.
After playing in Malabo on Saturday, Spain then face South Africa in Johannesburg on Tuesday, with both games apparently organised more due to links between the countries and their football federations than for their value as preparation for next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil
Speaking as Spain’s new kit for the tournament was unveiled in Madrid on Wednesday, the Real Madrid defender said he and his teammates did not enjoy the long journeys they often took while on national team duty, but were always happy to defend their country’s shirt.
"These are not enjoyable journeys for anyone, as they take so long," Ramos said. "But whenever you meet up with your teammates to prepare for a competition as important as the World Cup, it is positive. It could be Guinea, South Africa or wherever, you need to have the same motivation because for a player the most important thing is to defend the colours of their country. There are many countries where you cannot see up close the world champions."
Around recent friendlies in countries such as Argentina, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Ecuador, Spain’s squad have visited presidential palaces and other local landmarks, smiling for the cameras while accompanied by Spanish FA [RFEF] executives and local politicians and business people.
Ruling authorities in Equatorial Guinea have already spoken about the meaning of the game from their perspective -- "The Spanish team, current world champion, has accepted to play without any financial compensation, thanks to the excellent ties of culture, friendship and cooperation which unite Spain with our country," said a government statement. Meanwhile Obiang’s son -- also the country’s vice-president -- has reportedly offered the Equatoguinean players a five million euro bonus should they be victorious.
AS have reported that La Roja players have 'let it be known' that this time around they will not be photographed with Obiang or take part in any promotional or propaganda events.
The Spanish paper says the trip, which was finalised at short notice after plans for other friendlies fell through, has the backing of Spain’s government as they would like to rebuild relations with Obiang and get a share of the country’s booming oil business.
The president of Spain’s Human Rights Association, Jacinto Lara, also wrote to the RFEF this week to ask for the game to be called off.
"There is no sense in promoting a friendly game between both teams when this country, Equatorial Guinea, has a corrupt and bloody dictatorial regime, which practices torture and the overlooking of human rights," Lara maintained.
The game has also become a party-political issue in Spain, with four opposition parties [La Izquierda Plural, UPyD, PNV and ERC] calling for an 'institutional boycott', by the ruling government.