Italian Super Cup: Holding match in Saudi Arabia 'disgusting'

Matteo Salvini, Italy's hard-line interior minister and deputy prime minister, says the decision to play the...

Posted: Jan 4, 2019 6:54 AM
Updated: Jan 4, 2019 6:54 AM

Matteo Salvini, Italy's hard-line interior minister and deputy prime minister, says the decision to play the Italian Super Cup match between Juventus and AC Milan in Saudi Arabia is "disgusting" due to the restrictions placed on female fans.

Salvini, leader of Italy's far-right League party, condemned the fact that sections of the King Abdullah Sports City stadium for the January 16th game will be reserved for men only.

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In a Facebook Live video, Salvini, a Milan fan, said: "That the Italian Super Cup is played in an Islamic country where women can't go to the stadium if they're not accompanied by men is a sadness, a rubbish, I won't watch the game.

"Where are the Italian feminists and [Laura] Boldrini (former president of Italy's lower chamber and women rights' activist)? I don't want a similar future for our daughters in Italy."

The organizers of the game, Serie A, defended the decision to hold the game in Saudi Arabia and contradicted Salvini's claim that women couldn't enter the stadium without a man.

In a statement, the head of Serie A, Gaetano Micciché, said: "Until last year, women (in Saudi Arabia) could not attend any sporting event," he said. "We are working to ensure that in the next games that we play in the country, women can access all the stadium seats."

On Wednesday, Serie A said 50,000 tickets had been "snapped up for the game."

Serie A also said sections designated for "singles" were reserved for men, while sections designed for "families" were mixed gender.

Saudi's General Sports Authority has yet to comment on Salvini's condemnation of the game and the GSA did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and videos

As part of an easing of strict rules on gender separation, the ultra-conservative country allowed women to be spectators at a football match for the first time in January 2018. However, they had to enter through turnstiles for women and families.

In Saudi Arabia, every woman has a male guardian -- often a father or husband, sometimes a brother or son -- who has the power to make a range of critical decisions on their behalf

Before Salvini's Facebook Live broadcast on Thursday, Laura Boldrini posted on Twitter: "Women at #SuperCoppaItaliana go to the stadium only if accompanied by men. Are we joking? The lords of the #football even sell the rights of the matches but they shouldn't be allowed to trade women's rights!"

Luca Lotti, a former minister of sport, also contributed to the debate by tweeting: "More than two months ago I raised the alarm on the Italian Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia. Today I can only join those who, in these hours, are expressing their concern. Those who love football reject all cultural barriers. Always."

Saudi Arabia's human rights record has faced increased international scrutiny following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul late last year.

A few weeks after the murder, Lotti called on the "world of Italian sports" to take action and "immediately block the decision to play the Super Cup final in Riyadh." The suspects include members of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's inner circle. The crown prince has denied any connection to the killing.

Previously the Italian Super Cup — traditionally the annual match between Italy's Serie A winners and Coppa Italia champions — has been held in China. Libya, the US and Qatar.

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