Saudi Arabia: Cristiano Ronaldo in Al-Nassr, the first phase of the rocket to the 2030 World Cup

With the high-profile recruitment of Cristiano Ronaldo by Al-Nassr, Saudi Arabia continues to push its foot on the world sporting map with a medium-term goal of winning the 2030 World Cup.

The 37-year-old Portuguese legend, who was officially presented in Riyadh on January 3, will also embrace a new career alongside the star player of Al-Nassr, who will receive a salary of 200 million euros until 2025: Unofficial ambassador. Saudi Arabia and its sports diplomacy, Ronaldomania have taken over the country. “Ronaldo’s arrival helps to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s sports strategy, and it also means moving to the next stage, namely the stage of candidacy to host the 2030 World Cup.”Analysis for AFP Raphaël Le Magoariec, specialist in the geopolitics of sport in the Gulf countries at Tours University. “This is the beginning of an operation to tempt world football officials, because the participation of Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the opening match of the World Cup has already been shown.” He remembers in Qatar. “They come to seek the holy anointing with Ronaldo, there is holiness”even Mr. Le Magoariec believes.

??⚽ Cristiano #Ronaldo He has only been a player for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr club for a few hours, but already residents of Riyadh are rushing to buy their favorite team’s jersey with the Portuguese star’s name and his number 7 symbol ⤵️ #AFP

– Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) January 3, 2023

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Just eight years after Qatar became the first Arab country to host the World Cup in November, Saudi Arabia is hoping to win the co-hosting of the planet’s most prestigious football tournament with Greece and Egypt. The awarding of World Cups has long been subject to the sacred principle of rotating continents and confederations, but observers say there is nothing stopping a candidate led by an ultra-rich ultra-conservative kingdom from seizing world power so quickly. .

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Green signals

“All signals are green for Saudi Arabia”, even Raphaël Le Magoariec believes. Saudi Arabia has already invested heavily in football, having defeated future world champion Lionel Messi’s Argentina team (2:1) in the first game of the World Cup with Qatar before exiting the group stage. In October 2021, a Saudi Arabian consortium took control of English club Newcastle United and its famous St James’ Park stadium, despite initial protests from supporters. While waiting for a possible World Cup, Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Cup in 2027. This strategy goes beyond football. Saudi Arabia is now considered world-class in motor sports (the Dakar Rally, the 45th edition of the Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix starting Saturday on the Red Sea coast), golf (the LIV circuit, a rival to the PGA). a tour that attracts the world’s best with unprecedented prize money) or in horse racing (the Saudi Cup, the world’s richest race at $20 million). Of course, without forgetting the attribute of the 2029 Asian Winter Games in October, which caused a great reaction in Neom, the “city of the future” in the mountainous desert of Trojena, 50 kilometers from the Red Sea.

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Are you waiting for the Olympics? An idea known as “sportwashing”. “Changing one’s image in Western public opinion”Before ranking, Raphaël Le Magoariec notes: “The Saudis know that economic issues, especially oil, are higher than human rights. There is no progress in this area, there is even a limit to degradation.”

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