Serie A president Gaetano Micciche has defended the decision to host the Supercoppa Italiana final between Juventus and AC Milan in Saudi Arabia.
This season’s edition of the showpiece fixture between two of Italian football’s biggest clubs will be staged in the Saudi city of Jeddah on January 16.
The league’s decision to hold the match in the Middle Eastern country has drawn controversy, with certain human rights organisations calling for the game to be boycotted by both sides following last year’s killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
However, Micciche insists the decision for the high-profile fixture to go ahead at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium later this month is the right one, believing that it will help to promote the Italian game to a worldwide audience.
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“Dear fans and those passionate about Italian football,” he wrote in a statement. “I think it’s right to take stock of the decision of the Lega Serie A, and all the associated clubs, to play the next Supercoppa Italiana on January 16 in Jeddah.
“This trophy, since the first overseas edition in 1993, has been used to export and promote Italian football around the world. We’ve played this competition twice in the United States, four times in China, as well as in Qatar and Libya.
“The choice to take calcio to places which are different in terms of culture and type of government is not just an Italian decision, but has other international examples because sport increasingly needs global audiences to grow.
“The Khashoggi case which took place in October and therefore months after the agreement was found, placed the choice of Saudi Arabia in the spotlight and, as is right, the Lega Serie A questioned what the right thing to do was.
“Football is part of the Italian economic and cultural system, and can’t have logic, especially in international relations, different from those of the country to which it belongs.
“Saudi Arabia is the largest Italian commercial partner in the Middle East thanks to dozens of important Italian companies that export and operate there, with many of our compatriots working Saudi Arabia, and none of these relations have been disrupted.
“Football cannot put itself in a place of authority on international politics, nor can it make choices which don’t respect the system of the country.
“Football doesn’t play politics but it has a social role, in this case a vehicle of union and commonality among peoples which has no equal in any other sector.
“Within a few hours of pre-sales the Jeddah Supercoppa sold out, an event of international importance for which the local fans wait with great enthusiasm.
“With the approval of FIFA, UEFA and the Asian Confederation we are going to play an official football competition in a country with its own laws, which have been set for years, where local traditions impose constraints that cannot be changed from day to night.
“I am optimistic by nature, and I look to the future and the steps already taken with confidence.”
Micchie has also denied reports that female spectators will be banned from watching the match inside the 62,000-capacity stadium.
“Until last year, women could not attend any sporting event and for several months now they’ve had access to large areas of the stadium, which they’ve started to enthusiastically attend,” he added.
“We’re working to ensure that the next editions will be played in a country where all the seats are accessible to everyone.
“And I want to clarify that women will be able to enter the game alone without any man accompanying them.
“Our Supercoppa will be remembered as the first international sporting competition which women can watch live.”
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