Saudi Arabia has managed to sign footballer Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo to Al-Nasr Club in a contract that will run until 2025, amid a sporting ‘rush’ that in the Gulf region, the most important of which was Qatar’s success in organizing the 2022 World Cup.
These sporting events coincided with the emergence of the term “sports washing”, used to describe the political use of sport, as a British newspaper leveled this accusation against Saudi Arabia, after Ronaldo joined in the victory.
This is not the first time that foreign newspapers have made this accusation against Saudi Arabia, and the latest report published by the “Guardian” on Monday talked about “Saudi Arabia’s growing portfolio of sports laundry.”
“Human rights violations disappear”
The Guardian report linked the executions to Ronaldo’s joining Al-Nasr club, saying that Saudi Arabia revealed that Ronaldo was transferred to the ranks of the “Al-Nasr” club at the end of a year during which at least 147 people were executed. according to figures from the European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights.
And the report considered that “the Saudis (bought) one of the prominent figures in the world of the round witch, and what matters more than goals and assists in matches is the sports washing that Saudi Arabia does.”
The Guardian indicated that complaints about human rights violations disappear before these sporting events.
Qatar faced similar accusations while hosting the FIFA World Cup matches, to which the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, responded at the time, saying that “Qatar is being subjected to a campaign that a host country of the World Cup had never been subjected to We initially dealt with the matter in good faith, and even considered Some criticism is positive and helpful, but it soon became clear to us that the campaign continues and expands and fabrications and included double standards until it reached a level of ferocity.This unfortunately left many wondering about the real reasons and motives behind this campaign.
Before the celebration and the reception of the fans of Al-Nasr, the new team player, Ronaldo, in Al-Nasr Square, Marsoul Park, after his arrival in Saudi Arabia after signing with Al-Nasr in a resounding agreement , Reuters said media outlets estimated its value at more than 200 million euros ($214.04 million), in contrast to Saudi Arabia exploiting sports to cover human rights issues such as executions.
“just hocus pocus”
In response to this statement, Saudi academic and political and security analyst Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Rukban confirmed in an interview with Al-Hurra website that “politicians in Saudi Arabia do not pay attention to such accusations because the Kingdom continues. according to a clear goal set in Vision 2030.”
Al-Rukban continued, “What the newspapers say about sports washing is just superstition. Saudi Arabia is not in this regard and does not have the behavior and level to be accused of sports washing to cover up human rights issues,” noting that “Saudi Arabia Arabia has a vision, seen by the countries of the world, and signs agreements that come within the context of the vision with more than one country, including the United States, China, Turkey and many others.
“The vision has noble, moral, political and economic-financial goals. As for these accusations, it is just a distortion of the vision and the successes of Saudi Arabia,” says al-Rukban.
And he emphasized that “Vision 2030 has opened up very big horizons with the countries of the world and with presidents, and one of the most important goals of the vision is economically to localize the industry, whether it is the manufacture of weapons or cars and others were. in Saudi Arabia, so that it is led by the young Saudi generation in the future.”
previous “Sports Wash”
Play the Game, an initiative run by the Danish Institute for Sport Studies (IDAN) which aims to raise ethical standards for sport and promote democracy, transparency and freedom of expression in world sport, says on its website that “sportwashing ” one of the terms used to describe the use of sports Politics of sports by country.
And the site explained, in a report published on October 27, 2022, that this phenomenon is old and of the age of sports, but the use of the term is relatively new and has in a press conference of the “Sport for Rights” organization appears. before the 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan.
“Azerbaijan is engaged in sports laundering and is trying to divert attention from its human rights record by sponsoring and hosting prestigious sporting events,” the conference said.
Sport is the pillar of Saudi Vision 2030
The website stated that “in the spring of 2016, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched Saudi Vision 2030”, which is an ambitious roadmap and plan representing a comprehensive reform process for Saudi Arabia economically, politically and socially. The vision covers many projects focusing on climate change, tourism projects and the establishment of a future giant city worth $500 billion (NEOM).
The website emphasized that “Vision 2030” is part of Saudi Arabia’s desire to attract investors and establish political alliances, and that sports is a fundamental pillar in this strategic framework due to its distribution and popularity.
“The ruling family in Saudi Arabia has realized that sport, with its ability to create excitement and national belonging, offers a way to gain political goodwill, diplomatic relations and new investment,” the “Play the Game” website said. consider.
Al-Rukban’s words coincided with what was stated in the “Play the Game” report, stressing that sport is an essential element in Vision 2030.
He continued, “Vision 2030 focused on sports as a concern for future generations, and that 70 percent of the Kingdom’s youth generation is interested in sports, whether local or international sports, therefore the vision wanted to increase the value of sports, in order achieves a very important goal in all sports forums, And not only in the field of football, but also in other different and varied games.
The symbolic entry of Ronaldo
Al-Rukban explains that “there is no doubt that the presence of leading players in the world and their entry into the Prince Muhammad bin Salman League is considered one of the strategic plans for Saudi sports investment. Saudi Arabia will be represented externally, either at the Asian level, or also at the world level, and Al Hilal will play among the group of world clubs in Morocco, as well as Al Nasr and Al Ittihad clubs will also be represented in Asian competitions.
He pointed out that “sport has become one of the financial and sports investments in the world,” and that “Saudi Arabia has a strategic plan to organize the World Cup if conditions suit it. This will enhance the reputation of the Saudi role more elevated than it is now, and it receives great interest and great financial support from the Saudi leadership.”
He added, “Ronaldo’s entry is of investment interest, and players in Saudi clubs will learn from his experience and skills.”
Saudi sports achievements
Saudi Arabia is pumping millions of dollars into organizing international sporting events to change its conservative image in the world. It comes within the framework of an unprecedented campaign to achieve great social openness, according to what Agence France-Presse said in a report issued on Tuesday.
The agency reviewed the key steps Saudi Arabia has taken to become a major player in sports.
Last October, Saudi Arabia was chosen to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games on its soil in the giant futuristic city of Neom.
Five years later, the capital, Riyadh, will host the 2034 Asian Games.
And Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal confirmed in an interview with France Press last August that hosting the Olympics is “the goal”.
In 2021, Saudi Arabia hosted a prize in the Formula One World Championship for the first time in the coastal city of Jeddah.
In October 2021, a Saudi-backed consortium bought English club Newcastle, in a move that sparked wild celebrations for its fans, some of whom waved the Saudi flag in front of St. James Park in the north-east of England, according to AFP.
Saudi Arabia will host the 2027 Asian Cup and hopes to host the Asian Women’s Cup in 2026. Saudi Arabia is currently in talks with Egypt and Greece over an attempt to submit a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
Professional golf was influenced by the emergence of Live Golf, a Saudi-funded breakout league that attracted stars from the US PGA Tour with a staggering $25 million in prize money per tournament.
The fledgling and controversial league achieved initial success. Despite fierce opposition from the American and European championships and their refusal to allow their players to participate, LIV Golf attracted 16 players from the top 100.
Saudi Arabia hosted the world heavyweight boxing championship last August between Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, who won the title at the expense of Briton Anthony Joshua, according to Fras Press.
The Dakar Rally 2023 kicked off from Saudi Arabia for the fourth time on December 31. And it started to be organized in the Kingdom in 2020.
Oil giant Saudi Aramco has reached an agreement with the federation to sponsor a number of major cricket tournaments around the world.
Saudi Arabia started organizing the Saudi Equestrian Cup with a prize of $20 million, the most expensive in the world. The third edition was held last year. Two Saudi-owned horses have won the last two editions.