The soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has turned down a multi-million-dollar advertising offer from the Saudi Arabian tourism authority.
The Portuguese and Juventus striker refused to be used by the Saudi regime to project an image of openness and modernity when it is known as a notorious human rights abuser.
The Telegraph Sport reported on January 22 that the soccer star was offered $6.5 million annually to become the face of Saudi Arabia as an attractive tourist destination.
By rejecting the lucrative offer, Ronaldo has delivered a mighty kick in crown prince Mohammad bin Salman’s mouth and confirmed that the Saudi regime is a pariah.
The blow is doubly painful because soccer is extremely popular in the region.
When Qatar won the right to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, there was much angst in Saudi Arabia that considers itself leader of the Arab world.
By rejecting the offer, Ronaldo has shown himself as a man of principle.
The Saudis are believed to have approached Argentina and Barcelona forward, Lionel Messi, as well but it is not clear whether he would accept any offer either.
As part of the deal, Ronaldo’s image would have been used on bill boards promoting Saudi Arabia.
He was also to be invited to the kingdom to be photographed alongside a beaming MbS intended to refurbish his jaded image especially following the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
The soccer superstar clearly did not want to be used by a regime with a horrible record of human rights abuses.
Next month, the kingdom is due to launch a major advertising campaign.
This would compliment the “Welcome to Arabia” commercials already running on global television networks.
MbS plans to open a holiday resort on the Red Sea coast that will have casinos and bars.
There will be no restrictions on dress.
Essentially, it is a signal to foreign tourists—especially women—that they can bare as much as they want.
The idea is to attract foreign tourists that will bring in revenue as part of the regime’s drive to diversify its economy and reduce dependence on oil.
MbS is competing with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) especially Dubai where alcohol is freely available and there are clubs all over.
Women can expose as much flesh as they want.
And only a few months ago, UAE passed a law allowing cohabitation among unmarried couples.
This was done to facilitate Israeli tourists that have been flocking to the Sheikhdom since they established full diplomatic relations last August.
Emirates, Etihad and AirDubai have started regular flights to Tel Aviv.
Saudi Arabia wants to establish itself as a major tourist destination in the Middle East.
Tens of millions of pilgrims visit the kingdom every year for Hajj and Umrah but those are not the kinds of visitors they want.