Spain slammed over Equatorial Guinea match

Spain's decision to play an international friendly football match against former colony Equatorial Guinea has raised the ire of human rights groups who say the African nation has one of the worst human rights records on the continent.

Spain slammed over Equatorial Guinea match
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema walks on the before the start of the final match of the 2012 African Cup of Nations. File photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

The friendly against footballing small-fry Equatorial Guinea is part of Spain's preparation for the 2014 World Cup.

It is part of a mini-African tour that will pit Spain against the oil-rich nation in central Africa on August 16th and then against South Africa three days later.

But Spain has come under fire for its decision to take its World Cup-holding football squad to a country which ranks a lowly 163rd out of the 176 countries surveyed by the anti-corruption group Transparency International.

The country's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is Africa’s longest serving leader, having come to power after a 1979 coup.   

Critics say Obiang has ruthlessly suppressed political opponents while sacking the country's vast oil reserves to build up his own personal fortune.

"I cannot imagine England deciding to play a friendly against the Zimbabwean national team while Robert Mugabe is in power," Tutu Alicante, the director of Equatorial Guinea human activist group EG Justice, told the UK's Guardian newspaper. 

The presence of the Spanish football team in Equatorial Guinea was "only going to bolster the image and credibility" of a corrupt authoritarian regime", Alicante added. 

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Human Rights for the country's main opposition party called Spain's decision to play in the country "indecent".

"I like football," Wenceslao Mansogo told Spain's El País newspaper. "But this is just masking reality." 

Equatorial Guinea is a former colony of Spain, and the only country on the continent where Spanish is the national language.

Life expectancy in the country with 700,000 inhabitants is 52 years, and the average salary is €200 ($267), according to the World Bank.

Spain is also one of Equatorial Guinea's key trading partners with exports from the African country to Spain valued at $850 million in 2011.

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Fifa probe Real Madrid over underage signings

Real Madrid director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno has insisted the European champions will collaborate with Fifa over any investigation into their recruiting of players under the age of 18.

Fifa probe Real Madrid over underage signings
Real Madrid football team on January 24th 2015. Photo:Cristina Quicler/AFP

Madrid sports daily AS reported on Monday that football's governing body had requested information from Real on any foreign national players under the age of 18 registered in 22 youth teams with which Real Madrid have agreements.

"Firstly, we are in agreement with FIFA on this matter," said Buragueno at the unveiling of Brazilian midfielder Lucas Silva as a Madrid player on Monday.

"We are continuing to collaborate with them in everything they ask of us. We have peace of mind with the procedures at Real Madrid."

Barcelona are currently serving a one-year, two transfer window, ban on signing players handed down by FIFA due to irregularities in the signing of non-Spanish minors between 2009 and 2013.

Madrid beat off competition from around Europe to seal the signature of 16-year-old Norwegian teen prodigy Martin Odegaard last week from Stromsgodset.

However, Odegaard's move is not likely to fall foul of FIFA's rules as European players can move freely from the age of 16 as long as certain educational criteria are fulfilled.

Whilst Odegaard is expected to play out the rest of the season with Madrid's reserve side, Real Madrid Castilla, under the orders of French legend Zinedine Zidane, Silva insisted he is ready to be called upon immediately by boss Carlo Ancelotti.

The 21-year-old sealed a deal worth a reported €14 million ($15.8 million, £10.5 million) on Friday and arrives fresh from winning the Brazilian championship for the second consecutive year with Cruzeiro.

"I have had a week of pre-season training with Cruzeiro and I have done a lot of physical work," he said.

"This afternoon I am going to train with the first team to try and adapt as soon as possible."

The current Fifa investigation centres on two Venezuelan players, Manuel Godoy and Fernando Macías, who signed for Real Madrid when they were 12 and 14 respectively, according to AS. 

Real Madrid parted company with Godoy in 2013 after suspecting his signing could lead to problems with Fifa and ended their relationship with Macías at the end of last season. 

AS also reported that Real Madrid was not the only Spanish football club to be investigated by Fifa for underage signings, Atlético Madrid, Valencia and Rayo Vallecano will also be scrutinized.