Responding to Cristiano Ronaldo’s public comments on his decision to sign for Saudi Arabian football club Al-Nassr, Dana Ahmed, Amnesty International’s Middle East researcher, said:
“Al-Nassr’s signing of Cristiano Ronaldo fits into a wider pattern of sportswashing in Saudi Arabia. It is highly likely that the Saudi authorities will promote Ronaldo’s presence in the country as a means of distracting from the country’s appalling human rights record. Instead of offering uncritical praise of Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo should use his considerable public platform to draw attention to human rights issues in the country.
“Saudi Arabia regularly executes people for crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling. On a single day last year, 81 people were put to death, many of whom were tried in grossly unfair trials. The authorities are also continuing their crackdown on freedom of expression and association, with heavy prison sentences handed down to human rights defenders, women’s rights activists and other political activists.
“Cristiano Ronaldo should not allow his fame and celebrity status to become a tool of Saudi’s sportswashing. He should use his time at Al-Nassr to speak out about the myriad human rights issues in the country.”
On 3 January, Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after signing a deal with Al-Nassr Football Club, which is estimated by the media to be valued at over 200 million euros.
In a press conference, Ronaldo told reporters: “I had many opportunities … Many clubs tried to sign me but I gave my word to this club to develop not only the football but other parts of this amazing country.
“I want to give a different vision of this club and country. This is why I took this opportunity.”