The Emperor’s Son

The decision by Spain's national football team to go play a football friendly in its former colony, Equatorial Guinea, has spotlighted how the latter country is run.

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue (born 25 June 1968, nicknamed Teodorín) is the Vice President of Equatorial Guinea, in office since 2012.

We’re beginning to think the higher-ups at the Spanish Football Association didn’t really anticipate what they were getting themselves into when they decided to schedule – at short notice – a meaningless friendly football match for La Roja, as Spain’s national team is known, against a group of mostly Brazilian professionals, sorry Equatorial Guinea’s national team, in Malabo.

When the announcement was first made last week, very few media outlets noticed that there was something wrong about scheduling the match in what amounts to a family-run, police state. But by the weekend Spanish (and other) media had picked up on the story. So much so that a journalist from Spanish news outlet, El Mundo, dubbed the country’s president “a hooligan.” The Spanish FA (and Obiang’s various PR firms) probably thought that’s the end of all the attention, except they had not reckoned with Teodorin Obiang, the President’s son.

If you’re wondering  who Teodorin is, he’s in his late 30s or early 40s and the country’s Second Vice President (basically heir to his father), but also a former agricultural and water affairs minister and the head of state security.  He’s also a part-time US resident. If you want to study up on Teodorin, we’d suggest reading this 2009 front-page story in The New York Times or Ken Silverstein’s long post in Foreign Policy.

Anyway, El Mundo now reports that Equatorial Guinea’s only TV station (owned by Teodorin) announced he had told the head of the national football federation that he’d give a bonus of €5 million ($6,7 million) to the national team  if they beat Spain. Of course this would all come out of the government’s budget which the Obiangs treat like their personal bank account. We wonder what he’d offer the team if they win an actual competitive match (he offered €751,265 to the team if they beat Libya in a first round African Cup of Nations tournament match in January 2012). But we also think Teodorin might be bluffing given Spain’s current position in world football against that of Equatorial Guinea–ranked 119th by FIFA.

In any case, this is not the first time, Teodorin has acted like the public purse is his private bank account. Just google his name. One Blog listed at least nine of the bizarre things he’s paid with the people’s money (these include: Michael Jackson’s “Bad Tour” glove, a 16th century gold vermeil elephant once owned by Yves Saint Laurent, renting a $700,000 yacht to throw a party for his former rapper girlfriend Eve, houses, expensive cars and a Gulf Stream jet.) To that we can add the record company that produced no music, white tigers he rented for a party (!),  15,000 DVDs (a Guardian reported calculated that’s about 41 years worth of watching films), rugs for his Malibu house ($59,850), and spending $1 million during a night of partying in Cape Town. This is who is hosting Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio Ramos and Casillas et al, for a game on Sunday.

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