37 years ago, a summer competition called the Spanish SuperCup was born. The idea was to inaugurate the new season with the previous season’s winners of La Liga and Copa del Rey, squaring off in a two-game final on domestic soil. However, this past Monday’s draw of the Spanish SuperCup in Madrid changed that tradition dramatically and drew enthusiasm as well as disappointment from Spanish soccer followers, especially in America.
For the first time ever, the competition expanded to four teams and will be played the week of Three King’s Day in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 10-time SuperCup champions Real Madrid will face defending Copa del Rey champions Valencia in the first semifinal on January 8th. One day later, last season’s La Liga runner-up Atlético Madrid will play two-time defending La Liga champions Barcelona.
The new format and rivals were welcomed in Madridista circles. Peña Madridista Windy City Chairman Alex Ruiz brought up the positives: “The new format is innovative. I think that one game to decide who advances to the next stage is more emotional and attractive.” Taking the enthusiasm up another level, Peña Madridista Providence Chairman Jorge Mendez expressed great confidence, saying “Being Real Madrid, it doesn’t have to be relevant who is the opponent.”
What also seems to bring Madridistas together is which player will be the catalyst to win this new SuperCup. It could be Karim Benzema. Peña Madridista Providence Member Luis Maldonado explains why the French forward is key: “He is the team’s top goal scorer in La Liga and is on fire.”
As excitement within American Madridismo permeates for the next two months, this new hybrid is creating ripple effects of disappointment and frustration. BeIN Sports anchor Ana Cobos, who has covered La Liga and Copa del Rey for the past seven years in the United States, brings up several issues with this new Supercup.
“I don’t like the format,” Cobos says. “I don’t understand how a team that didn’t win anything the prior season could be champion. It would have been more simple to create a new tournament.” Cobos goes further in mentioning the dark political cloud: “It doesn’t enter into my head that we are going to organize this tournament in a country where human rights are violated.” According to a 2018 report by Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia is responsible for the ill-treatment and torture of imprisoned activists, civilian casualties from the military campaign waged in Yemen, and restrictions of speech, association, and assembly on its citizens.
Despite the circumstances on and off the field, Real Madrid and its supporters see this new Spanish SuperCup as one more potential trophy to add to the Tour Bernabéu. It would be the best holiday gift for Madridismo. As for the desired rival in the potential final, I’d put a thousand dollars on the table that Barcelona would most likely be the chosen one. Is there a better way to start 2020 than dethroning the defending SuperCup champions? ¡A por la Undécima!
Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)