Amnesty urges Ronaldo to speak out over human rights in Saudi Arabia
- Ronaldo has joined Al Nassr for reported £177m a year
- Amnesty says signing follows pattern of sportswashing
Cristiano Ronaldo’s praise for Saudi Arabia – calling his new hosts an “amazing country” – on arrival at his new club Al Nassr has prompted Amnesty International to call on the former Manchester United player to use his celebrity to highlight the kingdom’s “appalling” human rights record.
The 37-year-old arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after signing a deal reportedly worth £177m a year until 2025, making him the highest-paid footballer in history.
Ronaldo said: “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.”
Amnesty’s Middle East researcher Dana Ahmed 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.
“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.”