SAUDI ARABIA

Sports minister: Iconic Saudi victory a celebration for entire Arab and Muslim world

November 24, 2022
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, following the Kingdom’s historic win, the minister spoke about everything from the Kingdom’s growing investment in sport and sports infrastructure, to rumors of a potential Saudi bid for Cristiano Ronaldo to play in Saudi Arabia next season, in addition to his ambitions for the country to host more tournaments.
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, following the Kingdom’s historic win, the minister spoke about everything from the Kingdom’s growing investment in sport and sports infrastructure, to rumors of a potential Saudi bid for Cristiano Ronaldo to play in Saudi Arabia next season, in addition to his ambitions for the country to host more tournaments.

DOHA — Saudi Arabia’s iconic victory in the opening game of World Cup 2022 against Argentina is a celebration for the entire Arab and Muslim world, according to Saudi Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal.

In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, following the Kingdom’s historic win, the minister spoke about everything from the Kingdom’s growing investment in sport and sports infrastructure, to rumors of a potential Saudi bid for Cristiano Ronaldo to play in Saudi Arabia next season, in addition to his ambitions for the country to host more tournaments.

Replying to a question about the atmosphere at the game, Prince Abdulaziz said that it was unbelievable. “It was a celebration not just for Saudis, really, and that’s what we felt, it’s for the Arab world, and the Muslim world. Everyone came to celebrate something that they were proud about. They did a performance that everyone is proud about. The team really fought from the heart to deliver something.”

The minister also spoke about the Kingdom’s growing investment in sports, saying: “We’ve invested a lot in sports in the past couple of years, and this showcases the result. The Saudi league has also invested a lot in the teams, and really restructuring sports in the Kingdom and as an ecosystem, and how do we make it as professional as anywhere else in the world, because we know that Saudis are passionate about sports.”

“Our target for 2030 was for 40 percent of Saudis to participate in sports for half an hour a week – we have reached 48 percent in 2022.”

The minister rejected criticism that Saudi Arabia is sportswashing. “When you see the numbers – facts don’t lie. We hosted our first boxing international match in 2018 and at the time we had only six gyms in Saudi that had boxing in them. Today we have 57. And the increase of participants grew by 300 percent. That’s by just hosting one event. So, we host these events to showcase to the Saudis what the international standard is, and they can be a part of that because they can see it in front of their eyes.”

“We’re doing these things for the people in the country, and it’s benefiting us big time – socially, economically, on every level. So it’s a big strategy that we are working on.”

“People that don’t know Saudi Arabia, who have never been to Saudi Arabia, and they go out and talk about it as if they have lived there for 30 years. I always tell people: come to Saudi. Look what the country is doing for the future of the people in Saudi, and then you can criticize as much as you like.”

Prince Abdulaziz responded to rumors of a potential Saudi bid for Cristiano Ronaldo to play in Saudi Arabia next season, by asking: “Why not? We have a strong league. In each team we have seven foreign players and hopefully we are looking to increase that, our teams play in the top level in Asia, and football is strong in Saudi, so why not?

Reacting to CNN’s queries on a potential Saudi bid for Manchester United or Liverpool football teams, the minister stated that everything is possible these days. “But I don’t know about these reports...We look at all opportunities, like everything else. And we think and we believe that these opportunities come once in a lifetime and we have to take advantage of that – in everything that we do.”

Prince Abdulaziz positively responded to the question whether Saudi Arabia would make a bid to host the 2030 World Cup. He said: “Who wouldn’t like? I think any country you would ask, they would like to host the World Cup. It’s an amazing tournament, it brings people together, we saw that yesterday...Sports, I think, is a very positive thing to have anywhere in the world and we should push to make sure that all of these events go to different kinds of places around the world to get people closer together.” — CNN


November 24, 2022
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