Singapore to host La Liga clubs
Spanish league sets up regional office, open to bringing teams here for exhibition matches in near future
Just a week after Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan confirmed their participation in the International Challenge Cup at the National Stadium from July 25-29, Singapore could now also host Spanish La Liga outfits for exhibition matches in the near future.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the launch of the La Liga regional hub office at the National Gallery Singapore yesterday, the league's president Javier Tebas said he was looking to bring the LFP World Challenge to Singapore within the next 18 months.
"Yes, they will come here," said Tebas, in response to a question from The New Paper about the LFP World Challenge.
"We hope (it will be) this summer or the next."
If the move comes to fruition, local football fans could possibly see La Liga sides coming up against Hyundai-Great Eastern S.League clubs, or a selection side made up of players from various clubs.
In the first edition of the LFP World Challenge in May 2014, Sevilla took on Indonesian outfit Madura United at the Jalak Harupat Soreang Stadium in Bandung, and Malaysian side Selangor FA at the Shah Alam Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
The Spanish side ran out victors each time, beating Madura 4-0 and Selangor 2-0.
That same year, Villarreal and Valencia travelled to Hong Kong to play Hong Kong Rangers FC.
Since then, the LFP World Challenge has seen Spanish clubs take on local club sides from various countries in South and North America, Africa and Asia.
The last time a local team took on high-profile European club opponents was during the Premier League Asia Trophy in 2015, when EPL teams Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City vied for honours alongside a Singapore Selection side comprising national team players supported by a few S.League imports.
In recent years, Singapore Selection sides with a similar make-up have also played against Italian giants Juventus (August 2014, lost 5-0) and Spanish side Atletico Madrid (May 2013, lost 2-0).
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) provisional council president Lim Kia Tong wants to see S.League clubs pick up the gauntlet of facing high-profile foreign opponents.
"I think it is about time our S.League clubs take on the challenge, rather than have an S.League Selection," he said.
"Having a Selection team is tantamount to saying our whole league cannot mount a challenge against these teams.
"(Local clubs) have put in a lot of effort to get to a certain standard, and to meet a high- level club from Spain, for example, I think that will be a good signal for the S.League."
In response to queries, Sports Hub's senior director for corporate communications and stakeholder management Chin Sau Ho said: "We congratulate La Liga on the establishment of their Singapore office.
"We are always open to, and welcome the opportunity for collaboration, and would be delighted to explore the possibility of having top teams from the premier division of the Spanish football league play here at the National Stadium."
Tebas added that bringing the LFP World Challenge to Singapore would be just one of several steps La Liga is taking to ensure it leaves a legacy here by establishing a regional office here.
The La Liga has international offices in Johannesburg, Lagos, New Delhi, Shanghai and Beijing, but its headquarters in Great World City in Singapore is its first in South-east Asia.
"Singapore, for us, is going to be the gate that opens this part of Asia for us," said Tebas.
Former Real Madrid defender Fernando Sanz, a La Liga ambassador, added: "We've opened different offices around the world... to be a part of the culture and society.
"Not just to be in the country for one day then go to another.
"We establish (ourselves), be closer to the fans, the media and sponsors."