Cristiano Ronaldo a pioneer in Saudi football’s new era

January 03, 2023
Cristiano Ronaldo a pioneer in Saudi football’s new era

Dr. Ghadeer Talal Melibari

It could be a quiz question of the future - what have Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus and Al-Nassr got in common?

Until a few days ago, there would have been an obvious odd-one-out alongside the three heavyweights who have all been crowned kings of Europe.

The trio also represent some of the very best football leagues in the world - England’s Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga.

Al-Nassr may have been Saudi Pro League Champions nine times, but many would have laughed if you had compared them to the likes of United, Juve or Madrid a week ago.

But now everything has changed and there is one giant link between the four - and that is they are all clubs Cristiano Ronaldo has signed for.

These are dizzying times, and many are left pinching themselves, wondering if this has really happened, as the implications very slowly start to sink in.

A man considered one of the greatest of all time, who has won five Ballon d’Or awards for the best player on the planet, and scored more international goals than anyone in history, will be coming to play and live in Saudi.

In terms of what it can do for our international profile, it’s surely no exaggeration to say it’s one of the biggest things to ever happen here?

The recent World Cup was absolutely huge for our nation, as thousands made the short journey to Qatar to watch our side defeat another superstar in Lionel Messi and eventual winners Argentina.

Hundreds of thousands more were glued to televisions and it was all anyone could talk about for two weeks.

But that was happening on foreign fields for a short time - Portuguese star Ronaldo has signed to come and live among us, presumably in Riyadh, for the next two years.

There is so much history that can be made in that time and people in cafes and on the streets are almost shaking their heads in disbelief.

To put things in context, people from across the Middle East and further afield travelled to watch Ronaldo and other stars at the World Cup, and they built massive stadiums, such as the one in Lusail which holds 90,000.

Al-Nassr’s home ground of Mrsool Park is slightly more modest and holds 25,000 - but you would imagine this will be full of people wanting to see the new star.

The growth in attendances across Saudi should be immediate to watch him in action.

Ronaldo himself said he has achieved everything in Europe and wants to share his experience in Asia, while the club believe his signing will inspire the nation and future generations.

Youngsters in our country will now also dream of playing for Al-Nassr or one of their rivals in the Saudi Pro League just like Ronaldo.

But this is just the start - just like the world’s media avidly covered him in England, Spain and Italy, they will also follow him here.

Saudi and its league will be on the world map - more football fans will want to travel here to watch, more sponsors and businesses will be attracted, and more global knowledge of our country will be created.

Football may be the beautiful game, but it’s also an international language that everyone speaks.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect is that Ronaldo will not be the last - with the global spotlight he has created, many other superstars will surely follow.

Maybe he is a pioneer, creating a new path for top football players to follow.

Standards will then get higher and higher, and wonderful spectacles will be created that everyone will be talking about around the country, and maybe the world.

The greatest thing about football is that it allows everyone to dream - and maybe Ronaldo’s arrival means one day people will talk about the Saudi Pro League in the same way they do about the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A.

— Dr. Ghadeer Talal Melibari, holder of PhD in English from University of Hertfordshire, UK, is currently working as Assistant Professor of English teaching at Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah

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