The day that Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1 in the last World Cup in Qatar, they not only achieved an unexpected victory and a World Cup crash, achieved much more. With this feat, Arabia had the best showcase to show the world its declaration of intent: to take advantage of sport as a vehicle to expose at the international level an image of the country that went beyond oil and complaints of human rights violations. They won the publicity game and turned heads.

(You may be interested: Unusual! These are the millionaire salaries of Cristiano, Benzema and Kanté in Arabia)

Under that strategy, Saudi Arabia has become the epicenter of world sportespecially the sensational signings in football, to the point that they already have Cristiano Ronaldoa precious stone for display, and they almost took to Lionel Messi, the other diamond, which they managed to tempt. But his tentacles extend to other fronts, such as the birth of the LIV Golf that they sponsor, enter the big tent of the Formula One with the Grand Prix from 2021, or expose their riches to venture into the tennis elite. And, as if that were not enough, they will be the venue for the Soccer Club World Cup this year.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his victory.

the recent World Cup in Qatar it was a window to the Arab world. And Arabia took advantage of it in her own way. She beat Argentina to shout that soccer is not alien to them, that they know soccer, and business, of course. Arabia became the emerging market that sweeps football signings. Today the transfer news focuses on the Arab domains. When Al Nassr took Ronaldo, with a contract of 200 million euros per season, the Arabs showed that they had no limits and that their powerful economy backed their ambitions.

Recently a sandstorm in transfers has been unleashed. The loudest case, after Messi said no, is Karim Benzema, the French attacker who left Real Madrid for Al Ittihad, who signed him for 200 million euros per season. Behind him comes a constellation: N’Golo Kante He will accompany him after signing for four years for 100 million euros, 25 per season. The same club has just signed the Portuguese Jota, who at the age of 24 shows that Arabia is not a graveyard, they are also looking for future stars. And the list goes on: the goalkeeper Edouard Mendy left Chelsea to go to Al-Ahli, the same club that took out the checkbook and took Firmino and Koulibalythe latter has already opened up: “I can’t deny it, I’m going for money.”

The Arabs also signed DT Steven Gerrard, the legendary Liverpool captain who now leads Al Ettifaq. Another signing is the midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, who arrives at Al Nassr, where he will be with Ronaldo and the Colombian David Ospina. And there is speculation that the Arabs want Sergio Ramos and Juan Guillermo Cuadrado. In market times, the news moved from Europe to Arabia.

And its repercussion can be effective in the rest of the planet. so you think Luis Felipe Posso, agent for soccer players and athletes: “With the new signings and the large sums that are being paid in Saudi, the players, coaches, clubs and the entire soccer industry benefit, somehow that money will eventually radiate to the leagues of South America Because every time a player is taken from the teams in the 10 most economically powerful leagues, they will require more players from South America to cover those positions. It has already happened with China and now the same will happen with the Saudi league and the MLS, since this is also being reinforced with young people from Latin America and Africa who would previously go to Europe”, says Posso.

The Arabian Plan

Steven Gerard, signing in Arab football.

Saudi Arabia is a young country in Western Asia. A country that eats oil for breakfast, which is its main source of wealth and the one that makes its economy one of the largest in the world. It is a country of some 37 million Arabs, who are now delirious about sports, mainly soccer, which they have always liked, only now they live it at the first level. But Arabia is a country with certain geographical, political and economic characteristics that have allowed it to monopolize sport in this way.

angelica albaa professor in the Department of International Relations at the Javeriana University and an expert in the Arab world, explains the factors that give economic prosperity to the country to have an impact on sport.

“Saudi Arabia is not a country blessed by many natural resources, it is a desert, but it has two advantages: access to the sea and its energy resources. It is a country that bases its economic activity on the exploitation of resources, mainly oil. It has been experiencing great economic growth, sustained by this resource, and it is because of this oil wealth that it can trade with the whole world through the Persian Gulf. Its society is prosperous, with advantages for its inhabitants, services and a relatively high standard of living.”, says the teacher.

Angélica analyzes that this country has a plan for 2030 —just the year of the World Cup to which they were aspiring, although they recently gave up— to show another face internationally, since the image they transmit is that of a conservative country, where they constantly violate human rights, with many limitations on women’s freedoms. That is the image they want to change. “Under the leadership of the crown prince, Mohamed bin Salmán, they want to project themselves as a modern country, less dependent on oil and more open to the world. They intend to whitewash the image of the country… What they are doing is a strategy in the sense of showing themselves in a more friendly way towards the international community, as a country that is modernizing. And with all that wealth from oil and their public funds they do these things regarding football, golf… ”, she analyzes.

The defeat of Argentina at the hands, or feet, of Saudi Arabia left more than one with their mouths open.

Angélica remembers the game of Arabia against Argentina in the World Cup and the expression of the Arab people with that victory against Messi’s team and later world champion. He believes that this victory was an opportunity for the Arabs to spread their international strategy.

“With that victory there is a tremendous fever and an attempt to promote other ways of showing oneself to the world, and showing Saudi pride beyond religion, with football and sports. In international relations it is what is called soft power. And it served to promote this idea of ​​openness, of flexibility, of showing itself in a more positive way and not only as a country that violates human rights, ”he says.

global strategy

Phil Mickelson, at LIV.

The birth of the circuit LIV Golf It has been another of the blows of opinion of Arabia in world sport. It is a circuit financially backed by Arabia, which has invested millions of dollars to take the best, as it has attracted golfers of the stature of Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Now, his merger with the PGA Tour, the American circuit with which he has been in dispute, is underway.

The latest information indicates that the Arabs, through the Riyadh Public Investment Fund, will allocate some US$ 3 billion for the merger with PGA, thus ending the conflicts that led to the division of world golf, even with the ban on golfers who joined this ‘dissident league’ to be able to participate in the PGA or DP World Tour (European circuit).

Lewis Hamilton, before an Arabian GP.

This aggressive expansion into the sport is part of the prince’s ambitious strategy to project his kingdom on a global scale. Because of his position, criticism has not been long in coming. Felix Jakens, Director of Priority Campaigns and People at Risk at Amnesty International UK, said: “This is just another indication of the spread of Saudi image laundering through sport… It has long been clear that Saudi Arabia is willing to spend huge sums of money to reach the highest level of golf as part of an overall effort to become a major sporting power and try to distract attention from the country’s appalling record on human rights,” he said.

This showcase in world golf joins the expansion that Arabia has achieved in Formula One, where they not only have the grand prize, they also sponsor the Aston Martin team, through its oil company Aramco, and have shares in the teams McLaren and Aston Martin. In addition, they intend that in the future the teams move to the Neon city, which is under construction, and that they manufacture their single-seaters there and train the pilots.

Regarding tennis, the president of the ATP, andrea gaudenziassured that they have held talks with the Arabian Investment Fund to carry out investments in the sport, which could generate new tournaments in the country or the transfer to it of some already existing ones. The tennis player Carlos Alcaraz already said that they have assumed that in the future they will end up playing there.

Saudi Arabia shows its tentacles and goes all in on the sport. The country that beat Messi’s Argentina already had the showcase, now it is going for its expansion and conquests.

Editor of EL TIEMPO

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