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Ronaldo urged to address Saudi issues

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Cristiano Ronaldo has been urged to speak out about human rights issues in Saudi Arabia after completing his big-money move to Al Nassr.

The Portugal superstar, who was greeted by fireworks and deafening roars at Al Nassr’s Mrsool Park stadium on Tuesday, said he wanted to “be part of the success of the country and the culture of the country.”

The 37-year-old left Manchester United in November after an explosive interview in which he criticized the club and manager Erik ten Hag.

Amnesty International said Ronaldo’s signing is part of a “wider pattern of sportswashing” in Saudi Arabia.

The arrival of the former Real Madrid forward comes against the backdrop of a Saudi push into sports including golf, boxing, tennis and F1 as well as football, following the takeover of English Premier League club Newcastle United in 2021.

The Gulf nation is also mulling a joint bid to co-host the 2030 World Cup.

“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,” said Dana Ahmed, Amnesty’s Middle East researcher.

“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 should not allow his fame and celebrity status to become a tool of Saudi’s sportswashing. He should use his time at Al Nassr to speak out about the myriad of human rights issues in the country.”

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