With Mamelodi Sundowns having faced Spanish giants FC Barcelona in a friendly earlier this year, one of LaLiga’s representatives has told Soccer Laduma how much value such a game in South Africa has for the Spanish top flight.
Masandawana invited LaLiga winners Barcelona to play a friendly in SA in April 2018 (check date), but lost the tough contest 3-1 to Lionel Messi and company.
However, LaLiga intend to bring more teams to South Africa and broader Africa in order to strengthen their footprint on the continent, as Enrique Suay – one of LaLiga’s global representatives – told Soccer Laduma.
“For us, the Mamelodi Sundowns vs FC Barcelona game was huge, it had massive value for us,” Suay explained.
“We want to bring more LaLiga teams to South Africa and Africa in general. We do understand that it is not the same to watch a team of players through the TV screen or watch them live performing. It is a totally different experience, totally different engagement.
“And we believe that bringing teams closer to the fans and bringing those teams to the fans will help the fans to love those teams, read more articles about those teams, etc. So yes, for us, games like this have a huge value in every single way.
“We are aware of how many people want to watch LaLiga teams, but obviously it is not always easy to bring the teams to Africa in the off-season, because they have their own schedules, their own obligations with their sponsors and there is also the technical aspect from a pre-season point of view.
“But we are working hard to bring more teams to South Africa and Africa.”
With LaLiga having opened offices in South Africa and Nigeria recently in order to be closer to African football fans, Suay also gave a deeper overview into LaLiga’s overall strategy on the continent.
“We have input in Africa through our local offices and the global network programme across different countries in Africa. We are in Angola, Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal and Tanzania,” he explained.
"LaLiga has a total number of 16 employees across Africa, five being in South Africa, four in Nigeria and we also have delegates in Tanzania, Angola, Kenya, Senegal, Cameroon, Morocco and Egypt.
“What we are doing is, firstly and foremost, to look for opportunities to engage with the local fans, understand those local fans, understand what they want. What is the right way to provide them with our content, what is the appropriate way to talk to them? The aim is to see what our fans want in order to be able to provide it.
“And secondly, we always want to create brand awareness without disturbing the status quo of the different countries. We don’t want to build our brand over the South African Premiership, or the Kenyan Premier League, for example. It is not about that. It is about trying to create partnerships with the local leagues because we believe that the more football fans we have, the more these football fans are probably going to watch LaLiga.
“We also do not want those football fans to not love the local football leagues, because that is what they probably grew up with and made them fall in love with football or soccer. But obviously, after the local football, we want to be the second reference.
“So just to summarise, we would like to, first, understand the African fans, and then come up with activations that make sense for them locally. And in doing so, to bring the LaLiga brand closer to African football fans.”