Ronaldo vs Messi in sports washing: 1 – 0

May 16, 2022
Lionel Messi. Editorial credit: Asatur Yesayants / Shutterstock.com

In January 2021 I happily reported that Ronaldo rejected an offer of reportedly €6m per year to feature in commercial campaigns and visit the country. I added that Lionel Messi also received an offer from Saudi Arabia, but like his great rival didn’t accept.

According to 5Pillars (RMS) this turned out to be premature. The Argentina and Paris Saint Germain football superstar Lionel Messi was unveiled as the new tourism ambassador for Saudi Arabia. Messi visited Jeddah’s historic area on Tuesday to showcase the country’s ambitions to boost its tourism industry. Messi landed in the Kingdom on 9 May, Monday night and was welcomed by Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb.

I am happy to welcome Lionel,” said Al Khateeb. “We are delighted to have him explore the treasure of the Red Sea, the Jeddah station and our ancient history. This is not his first visit to the Kingdom and it will not be his last.” He was then hosted and accompanied by Princess Haifa Al-Saud, assistant minister of tourism….

The player himself posted an image of himself in Saudi Arabia on Instagram. “Discovering the Red Sea in Saudi. #VisitSaudi” wrote Messi.

But Amnesty International said: “Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority may well have plans to attempt to rebrand the Kingdom’s reputation, but we should not forget the cruelty that continues in the country.

Saudi Arabia is currently jailing and torturing dissidents and human rights defenders, is heavily involved in the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals and homes in Yemen, and the spectre of Jamal Khashoggi’s gruesome murder hangs over the entire Saudi government.

Countries like Saudi Arabia are well aware of the ‘sport swashing’ value of hosting major international entertainment and sporting events.” For some of my earlier posts on sports washing, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/

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