THE 2022/23 LaLiga Santander season is back in full swing with one of the most highly anticipated campaigns in decades and with a massive focus on growth and expansion in the African market.
Some of the biggest stars in world football and a host of impressive new signings have ensured LaLiga will be one of Europe’s most competitive major leagues from top to bottom in stadiums across Spain and on screens all around the world.
And Africa has been one of LaLiga’s fastest-growing regions, with an active presence and exciting projects in key markets such as South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Angola, Tanzania, Egypt, Cameroon and Zambia now beginning to reach more and more football fans across the continent.
LaLiga has just concluded a strategic football and business consultancy agreement with Zambia’s Zanaco FC, the third such partnership on the continent after similar projects with Angola’s Petro Luanda and Tanzania’s Yanga FC, as LaLiga showcases its continued commitment to the tangible growth and development of African football at all levels.
LaLiga also today announced a new continental online show, LaLiga Loca, that will bring LaLiga closer to African football fans, with Nigerian Super Eagles and Real Betis legend Finidi George the first major guest of the show set to be broadcast in September.
“We are very happy to be back up and running with the LaLiga Santander season and especially glad to see the considerable African interest and excitement in the league. African players like Eduardo Camavinga at Real Madrid, Cote D’Ivoire’s Franck Kessie at Barcelona, Nigeria’s Samuel Chukwueze at Villareal and Morrocan stars like Yassine Bounou and Youseff En-Nesyri at Sevilla FC have helped raise the profile of LaLiga on the African continent. And we have been capitalising on that interest and on the strength of the league by expanding our African strategy and strengthening our presence on the ground with a number of exciting projects and partnerships on the African continent,” said LaLiga Southern Africa Managing Director, Marcos Pelegrin, at a networking event at the Mesh Club in Johannesburg today.
Pelegrin added that the LaLiga Camps, which have been held to date in Johannesburg and Cape Town in partnership with IBERCUP, will be coming to South Africa again this season and will be held in more regions in Southern Africa and across the African continent going forward.
Another exciting recent development was the launch by RCD Espanyol this year of their first Academy on the African continent in Johannesburg and Pelegrin was joined online today by Espanyol’s Deputy Director Antoni Alegre and iconic Espanyol Ambassador and Spain FIFA World Cup winner, Joan Capdevilla.
“When I look back at having won the FIFA World Cup with Spain in South Africa I feel a lot of nostalgia, it’s difficult to put my feelings into words. The people, the culture, the taste was just so much better, it was a unique and incredible experience and I even have the FIFA World Cup tattooed with Johannesburg on my leg,” said Capdevilla, a former Espanyol academy graduate and LaLiga veteran.
“I had the great privilege to play for 15 years in LaLiga. It’s not easy. It’s a demanding, tough league, one of the best and most difficult in the world. For players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to have managed to stay at the top of their game for so long is not easy in a league like LaLiga. Many things have changed since my time in the league, but it’s still a league that any player should feel it’s a privilege to play in, it’s one of the best in the world,” Capdevilla added.
Alegre said the launch of the Espanyol academy in Johannesburg gave the LaLiga club the chance to “contribute to the improvement and development of youth and grassroots football in South Africa and to attract and export talented players to Europe”.
“Football is booming in South Africa and we are delighted to have opened our new academy in Johannesburg and excited to show how enthusiastic we are to help develop football in the country. The universe of football provides a series of contacts and bridges to establish links with the rest of the footballing world, something which has worked well for Espanyol. The launch of the Espanyol academy in South Africa will give us an opportunity to show we are fully committed to the country,” said Alegre.
This LaLiga Santander season is without doubt one of the most highly anticipated campaigns in decades. Reigning champions Real Madrid made some impressive summer signings to bolster their LaLiga and Champions League winning squad, but will they be able to hold on to their title in the face of bold and ambitious moves by FC Barcelona, who are going into their first full season with club icon Xavi Hernandez at the helm. Can Atlético de Madrid and Sevilla FC mount title challenges to rival the ElClasico rivals? Will the likes of Real Sociedad, Villarreal CF, cup champions Real Betis and sleeping giants Athletic Club and Valencia CF finally break through to be top-level contenders?
Former Eibar and Atletico Madrid Femenino star striker, Thembi Kgatlana, was at the session today and gave an insight into Atletico and how big and important the Madrid derby was for the city’s deeply divided football fans.
“Spanish football is much like South African football, played with flair and directness. If you have been to a derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, you see how passionate people are and that’s also the case when Atletico play Real Madrid. You really feel the intensity and passion of the Real fans and for any South African football fan you have to put the Madrid derby on your bucket list to experience the passion, emotion and atmosphere of the derby. It’s amazing to see how passionate people are about women’s football in Spain and it was an honour to play for both Eibar and Atletico,” said Kgatlana, who listed strikers like Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele and Karim Benzema as her favourite LaLiga players.