Abu Dhabi 1, Real Madrid 0
You don’t have to be a soccer fan to know that Real Madrid is one of the most famous sports teams in the world. The club is also enormously wealthy, reportedly worth today nearly $3.5 billion. Established in 1902 and initially known as Madrid Football Club, the team has worn its now-familiar all-white strip ever since. Spain’s King Alfonso XIII bestowed the term “real” – meaning “royal” – on the club, together with the royal crown that sits atop its now famous blue and gold logo. The team has played its home matches in Madrid’s Bernabéu Stadium since 1947.
Real Madrid has done Spain and its royal patrons proud numerous times, including winning the 1960 European Cup by demolishing Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. In this final, considered by many the finest soccer match ever played (available on DVD), Ferenc Puskás scored four goals to Alfredo Di Stéfano’s three. Though Eintracht scored first, Real kicked into high gear soon after and showed the Germans how it’s done. As a Puskás fan (like my father), I especially enjoyed watching that powerful left kick in action. Puskás left Hungary after the 1956 revolution and joined Real in 1958.
A club this financially secure presumably would be immune to outside pressures, right? For example, a clothing manufacturer who suggested players start wearing different team colors would be laughed out of the room, no matter how good the offer. A leaked proposal to move the team out of Bernabéu Stadium would start a riot.
What about other changes – for example, to Real’s logo? Spanish kings being Catholic, the royal crown atop Real’s logo naturally has a cross on it, though it is easily missed in a small photo. Is it conceivable that Real’s owners would agree to remove the religious symbol from its logo? To realize how absurd this possibility is, let’s keep in mind how the crown got there in the first place: by royal decree. Spain is still a monarchy. King Felipe VI succeeded to the throne in June 2014 following the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos I. Presumably Real’s owners wouldn’t dream of altering an image of their own country’s royal crown this way, right?
Wrong. As reported here, Real management has just signed a three-year deal with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi allowing the logo to appear without the cross on a bank-issued credit card. At a deal-signing ceremony in September attended by some of the club’s top players, Real President Florentino Peréz (seen in the photo holding the card) explained:
I know that the local people experience every match in a special way and that our links with the UAE are constantly growing stronger. This agreement will help the club to keep conquering the hearts of followers in the United Arab Emirates.
Not having been privy to the negotiations that led to the contract, I cannot say whether Real jumped or was pushed. The decision to alter the logo makes little practical sense. Reduced to fit on a credit card, the logo image would be so small that a cross would be virtually unnoticeable. Why bother – other than as a gesture of submission to Islam?
It’s unclear whether Real Madrid will be removing the cross from its official logo in all applications – including team uniforms and merchandise sold under its brand, such as hats, watches, backpacks, wristbands, medallions, etc., available on its website or other internet outlets such as Amazon. Another question is whether King Felipe will address the issue – since, after all, it’s his crown.
As reported by Algemeiner, Real Madrid now has the money to expand Bernabéu Stadium thanks to an agreement with the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), which is owned exclusively by the Abu Dhabi royal family. What next? IPIC-Real Madrid? IPIC-Bernabéu Stadium? It’s not out of the question.
Finally, I note that the European Tour’s counterpart of our FedEx Cup is the Race to Dubai (huh?), which Rory McElroy won last week. Here he is receiving the trophy from Saeed Harib, secretary general of the Dubai Sports Council. At least the European Tour is honest that it’s all about the big bucks and is not expecting anyone to entertain the silly notion that Tour golfers need to “conquer the hearts of followers” in Dubai. On the other hand, let’s see if a crescent moon appears on the trophy next year or the year after – maybe a small, unobtrusive one.