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Saudi Arabia: Ronaldo should speak out on human rights after Al-Nassr signing

Cristiano Ronaldo at an introductory ceremony at Mrsool Park Stadium, in Riyadh yesterday © AL Nassr Club of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Ronaldo praises ‘amazing country’ at first Al-Nassr press conference 

Rampant executions after unfair trials and clampdown on all forms of dissent are part of country’s ‘appalling’ human rights record

‘Cristiano Ronaldo shouldn’t allow his fame and celebrity status to become a tool of Saudi sportswashing’ - Dana Ahmed

Responding to the first appearance by footballer Cristiano Ronaldo at his new football club, Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia yesterday, 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 shouldn’t allow his fame and celebrity status to become a tool of Saudi sportswashing - he should use his time at Al-Nassr to speak out about the myriad human rights issues in the country.”

Lucrative deal

Yesterday, the 37-year-old Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in Saudi Arabia after signing a lucrative deal with Al-Nassr Football Club reportedly worth £177 million per year until 2025. 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.”

For more on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, go here

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