Cristiano Ronaldo: Another Saudi Attempt to Sportswashing Rights Abuses

After months of debate, the Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has joined Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr on a two-year contract. According to reports, Ronaldo will receive £172.9 million-a-year through 2025 as part of the deal.

Cristiano Ronaldo has earlier denied reports from Spain that he has accepted an offer to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, expressing hope to conclude his career at the European Champions League. However, he later accepted the Saudi deal and therefore being involved in Saudi sportwash policy.

Sportswashing is a term used to describe corrupt or authoritarian regimes who use sport and sports events to whitewash their image internationally. Saudi Arabia has long been accused of using sport to whitewash its poor human rights record at home and abroad.

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund bought the English football club Newcastle United FC. The Kingdom also hosted several international sports events, including the Formula 1, the Spanish Super Cup, and financed others such as LIV Golf.

In 2022, the World Cup champion Lionel Messi becomes a paid partner of Visit Saudi, a subsidiary of the country’s tourism authority, and an ambassador promoting the country’s 2030 Vision amid human rights concerns. Messi is also expected to play a role in Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the 2030 World Cup.

The Atlantic magazine commented on the deal, saying that Messi ‘sold himself to the devil.’  As well, Cristiano Ronaldo also signed a very uncomfortable deal with the devil.

Despite the Kingdom’s attempts to whitewash its human rights violations, the Saudi regime will continue to be labelled as one of the world’s worst rights abusers.

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