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Thursday, March 30, 2023

South Africa mock Cristiano Ronaldo's gaffe during Al-Nassr unveiling

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South Africa’s tourism board have told Cristiano Ronaldo “he’s welcome anytime” after he made an embarrassing gaffe at his Al-Nassr unveiling.

Ronaldo, 37, has signed a contract with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr until June 2025. He will reportedly be paid £177million per year to be the world’s highest paid footballer. That deal includes the use of his image rights and other commercial agreements.

Ronaldo was unveiled as an Al-Nassr player on Tuesday and made an awkward mistake when he insisted “it’s not the end of my career coming to South Africa”. Several people have mocked the Portuguese star for the remark, including South Africa’s tourism board.

The organisation’s Twitter account, which has more than 38,000 followers, posted a video of an empty stadium with the caption: “Patiently waiting for Ronaldo to arrive like… [a cheeky emoji] You’re very welcome in South Africa anytime!”

Ronaldo’s gaffe was probably harmless, but it’s done little to dispel the theory that he’s gone to Al-Nassr for the money. To put his new wage into perspective, he took home £26m per year at Manchester United – making him the best paid player in the Premier League.

The Portugal international left Old Trafford after a sensational interview with TalkTV host Piers Morgan, in which he criticised the club’s owners, manager Erik ten Hag and several ex-employees. His United contract was terminated by mutual consent in November.

Cristiano Ronaldo was unveiled by Al-Nassr on Tuesday
Getty Images)

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An unnamed Saudi Arabian club attempted to sign Ronaldo last summer. A move to the Middle East seemed likely after his United exit due to a lack of interest from top European clubs and the huge salary he could earn playing in the Saudi Pro League.

Ronaldo insisted his move to Al-Nassr is not just about the money at his unveiling. He told reporters: “I am so proud at making this big decision in my life and my career. My work in Europe is done. I played for all the most important clubs. I had many opportunities in Europe. Many clubs in Brazil, Australia, in the US and even Portugal.

“For me this is a good chance with my knowledge and experience to grow very important clubs. I want to help many different points and the Al-Nassr’s women’s team. I want to change the perspective of many people.”

Unless his contract is cancelled in advance, there’s a good chance Ronaldo will finish his career at Al-Nassr. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner will be 40 when his contract expires and has already played more than 1,100 senior games for club and country.

Amnesty International has urged Ronaldo to use his platform to speak about Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record. Women’s rights are curbed, homosexuality is illegal and executions are frequent in the Arab country, among other issues.

Dana Ahmed, Amnesty’s Middle East researcher, has said: “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… Ronaldo should not allow his fame and celebrity status to become a tool of Saudi’s sportswashing.”

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