Saturday, January 28, 2023

Can Cristiano catapult Saudi football to global prominence?

RIYADH ( Associated Press) – Cristiano Ronaldo’s new coach told his surprise on Tuesday when he was approached by a room full of reporters.

“Usually there are three or four journalists after the game. Today I don’t know what happened,” said Al Nassr’s French strategist Rudy Garcia at a press conference to present the Saudi club’s star signing.

Of course, he said it in jest, and caused laughter from those present.

“It’s a new era!” said newscaster Weem Al Dakheel, who asked Cristiano, Garcia and Al Nassr president Musalli Almuammar during the incident, despite the fact that there were a hundred journalists on site.

Cristiano’s arrival with a two-and-a-half-season contract, which according to various reports will fetch him $200 million a year, will bring unprecedented attention to Al Nassr and the Saudi Pro League in the football world.

But it was not possible to ask Cristiano a direct question in his first press conference. The only conversation many of those present had with the star consisted of appreciating it.

There were also chants of “I love you, Cristiano” and their celebratory-like gestures known as “siuu”.

It was a presentation controlled in detail by a public relations team, who made sure that nothing went off script.

There was something they could not imagine: the star misunderstood the country when he said: “For me, coming to South Africa is not the end of my career.”

It will be interesting to see whether Cristiano’s fame sparks interest in Saudi football beyond his first few weeks in the country.

The Portuguese star has 528 million followers on Instagram, more than any other person in the world.

And it’s already had an impact on the Al Nassr account, whose follower count has grown from 1.2 million to 8.9 million since last week, when it announced the signing. The number will definitely increase further.

Almuammar is confident that the deal will pay off.

“Many people talked about financing. Today when we have a great star like Ronaldo in Al Nassr, we do not need this kind of financing,” he insisted. “We have a lot of sponsors who will work closely with us in the years to come, sponsor this great deal, and we will have more income commercially and financially, which is important for leagues and football clubs in Saudi Arabia “

Almuammar did not confirm the value of Cristiano’s contract. However, he “generally believed that he would receive the largest in terms of cost and salary.”

The signing, one of the most surprising in the history of football, has raised doubts about the reasons Cristiano and Saudi Arabia agreed to, amid allegations that the country is using the sport to “wash” its image in all continues to do. world.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund led the 2021 acquisition of Newcastle shares in the Premier League. On Tuesday, English club manager Eddie Howe said the option of taking Cristiano out on loan is “not realistic” if the team qualifies for the next edition of the Champions League.

There is also speculation that Saudi Arabia may launch its bid to host the 2030 World Cup.

The signing of what is widely regarded as the best player in history will be another important step in increasing the country’s influence in the world of football.

Cristiano said the challenge of a new league motivated his arrival in Saudi Arabia. But it also wants to change the perception that the world has about football in this country.

“I know the league is very competitive. People don’t know that, but I know because I’ve seen a lot of games.”

However, the decision seems like a step backwards for the footballer who has won the Champions League five times and who collects five Ballon d’Or in his showcase.

Now he hopes to win another trophy. Al Nasser is the current leader of the League.

Cristiano’s total of 701 goals should be added to during his time in Saudi Arabia, even if he hasn’t been able to find his best form this season.

For the thousands of people who flocked to Mrisul Park, home of Al Nassr, on Tuesday, the only important thing was to get a closer look at their sporting idol.

Even on a cold and rainy night in Riyadh, the streets near the building were crowded. The club’s supporters gathered at the gate, patiently waiting to be let in, as if it were match day.

Meanwhile, Cristiano receives a movie star reception. He got out of a white Range Rover with tinted windows illuminated by countless camera flashes.

His picture was put up outside the stadium. Strobe lights were added to the special effects.

Dressed in a gray three-piece suit and a blue tie, the Portuguese athlete held a press conference to thunderous applause. Then he took his place.

“I am very proud to have made this great decision in my life. My job is done in Europe. I won everything and played with the most important clubs in Europe. It is a new challenge”, said Cristiano.

Afterwards, he donned the yellow and blue jersey of his new team and met his teammates. He entered the fray, amid chants, fireworks and smoke that chanted his name.

A player who was in the limelight for most of his career took center stage, catching the eye of the world.

It remains to be seen how long he will keep it.


James Robson is on Twitter at

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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