NEWS
24/05/2018 10:51 SAST | Updated 24/05/2018 12:12 SAST

The Rise Of LaLiga In Africa

In the space of a fortnight, two Spanish giants have graced the African continent.

In the space of a fortnight, the African continent has hosted not one, but two Spanish giants. It what was an ambitious concept turned into reality, Spanish champions Barcelona took on South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns in a marvellous match at FNB Stadium on May 16.

AFP/Getty Images
SA fans packed FNB Stadium in Johannesburg to watch FC Barca play Mamelodi Sundowns in a friendly on May 16, despite the home side's 3-1 loss.

Less than a week later, Europa League champions and La Liga runners-up Atletico Madrid took on Nigeria in an unprecedented club-versus-country match in Uyo, Nigeria, on May 22.

LaLiga
Nigerians welcomed Atletico Madrid to their country earlier this week.

On Wednesday HuffPost sat down with LaLiga's Africa director, Antonio Barradas, who is responsible for everything related to Spanish football on the continent.

We are doing a lot of grassroots development. We [La Liga] bring trainees from Spain, to train the football trainers in schools across South Africa.

He said LaLiga's vision is to grow its global brand and harness potential talent in Africa. The Spanish federation set up an office in Johannesburg two years ago, and now has two offices in Africa — the other is in Nigeria.

"We are doing a lot of grassroots development, we [LaLiga] bring trainees from Spain, to train the football trainers in schools across South Africa," he told HuffPost.

"When you give a child a soccer ball and you get trained by a special trainer from Spain, you will make a difference to that kid".

Pontsho Mabena
La Liga's Africa director, Antonio Barradas, talks to HuffPost in Johannesburg.

LaLiga has been working closely with the South African Football Association (Safa) to grow talent in Africa — in the hope that the valuable skills and experience transferred to South African footballers will see them playing in the lucrative European leagues.

If Barca can go there, other clubs will be knocking on our doors to play in South Africa.

"Our whole idea is to eventually get more South Africans to go and play in Spain," Barradas admitted, "because at the moment we are very short of that. We would love to see [more] South Africans playing in Spain."

Last month three youngsters from Gauteng were named as winners of the 2018 Future Players Talent Search. As a result, they will be travelling to Spain courtesy of LaLiga for further exposure to top-flight European talent that will enhance their football education.

"Most of the [Spanish] clubs don't know Africa and South Africa," Barradas said. He said the fixture between Sundowns and Barca was important, as it was a way for Spain to know more about SA football.

"If Barca can go there, other clubs will be knocking on our doors to play in South Africa."