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Saudi Arabia spends a fortune on soccer stars. In this way, he wants to warm up his image

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Saudi Arabia is becoming a powerhouse when it comes to top-class sports. The kingdom is estimated to spend €17 billion over the next few years on football alone. Activists say this is actually an investment in something else – in diverting attention from human rights abuses.

After the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, for several years in the media around the world, next to the name Saudi Arabia, the words: assassination, criminal regime, violation of human rights appeared most often. Today, a cluster with Saudi Arabia is created by: football, big money, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema. This is what sportswashing is all about, i.e. whitewashing your reputation through sport. From Friday, the whole world is to talk about the start of the season of the Saudi football league.

“Football is in the DNA of this country. We just had our best season in terms of TV attendance and coverage. We are just as excited as the fans. For us, this is the moment when our strategy starts to pay off,” said Carlo Nohra, football official, Saudi Pro League.

Prince Mohammad ibn Salman is most interested in implementing this strategy. The heir to the throne and the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, according to American intelligence, was behind the murder of Khashoggi, who wrote unfavorably about the Saudi royal court.

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In the eyes of the world, the prince became a villain. Whitewashing his reputation costs huge money. Recent reports say that the Saudi Ministry of Sports will spend 17 billion euros on downloading the biggest football stars in the coming years.

For now, the attention of the world is mainly to be diverted by football retirees: Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kanté and Roberto Firmino. Grzegorz Krychowiak will play in the Abha club led by coach Czesław Michniewicz.

Lionel Messi starts his career in the USAJaroslaw Kostkowski/Fakty TVN

They hope to repeat Messi’s success in the US

The billions pumped into football have no right to return, despite the huge enthusiasm of Arab fans. – When it comes to names, we are talking about the best players in the world. We have Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, who is considered by many to be the greatest player of all time. These are players players who were at the biggest clubs a year or two ago. I am very happy that such names play with us. It’s a beautiful thing,” says fan Abdallah Hamed Al Kahtani.

The blow for the Saudis was the rejection of their offer by Leo Messi. The World Cup winner decided to play in the United States. However, he did not completely despise Saudi money – for only $ 25 million, he agreed to become the ambassador of tourism for Saudi Arabia.

America has gone crazy over Messi. He scored 7 goals in just 4 games for Inter Miami. “Messi can have the same impact on football in America as Cristiano Ronaldo did in Saudi Arabia, where he attracted extra money and many new players,” said Wayne Rooney, former DC United footballer and coach.

However, there is one huge difference between the Saudi and American leagues. Americans watch every dollar twice – if they invest, it’s to make money. The United States co-hosts the World Cup for three years. FIFA has been vocal about its goal – though highly unlikely – to become the number one sport in America.

Facts about the world TVN24 BiS

Main photo source: Reuters

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