JEDDAH (Reuters) – Barcelona’s campaign to defend the revamped Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia got off to an inauspicious start as they arrived late for a training session in Jeddah on Wednesday, with a club source saying their bus driver had headed to the wrong location.
The team were due to prepare for Thursday’s semi-final against Atletico Madrid at local side Al-Ittihad Club’s training ground, but the driver instead took them to the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium where Super Cup matches are taking place.
The two venues are separated by over 30 kilometres and the team’s bus finally arrived at the training ground 45 minutes behind schedule, delayed by the coastal city’s notorious traffic levels.
Coach Ernesto Valverde and midfielder Sergio Busquets were due to give a news conference before the training session but will now speak to the media afterwards due to their late arrival.
Real Madrid play Valencia on Wednesday in the first game of the competition, which used to be a season curtain raiser but has been turned into a money-spinning event after federation president Luis Rubiales implemented radical changes last year.
Federation members approved expanding the competition’s format from two teams to four, switching the date from August to January and transplanting it abroad.
A three-year deal to hold the tournament in Saudi Arabia was announced last November which Spanish media say is worth around 40 million euros ($44 million) annually, angering human rights groups and the four teams’ traditional supporter base.