First and foremost, I acknowledge that I am not well-versed in the realms of international or local football. My limitations may extend to following specific clubs, but due to my professional work, I’ve observed that football has been a source of great interest and passion for Saudis for decades.
When Saudi Arabia embarked on the path of planning and defining future goals through the Vision 2030 programs, the higher authorities, under the astute and dynamic leadership of Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of the vision and reform, devised a unique mechanism to support the sports sector, particularly football, the most popular sport globally.
This was achieved through the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which allowed major football clubs significant autonomy to engage in international player transfers from both the East and the West, with no direct state interference in the clubs’ affairs. This support propelled Saudi Arabia onto the global stage, making it a favored destination for renowned football players requiring substantial contracts and funds for their transfers.
In a short span, there have been notable transformations in the major clubs, the Saudi Professional League, and the establishment of an exclusive football league for Saudi women. This marks a significant achievement, previously unattainable in Saudi Arabia.
However, Western media, often uncertain about their stance on Saudi Arabia, tend to resort to baseless criticism of everything related to the country. They fail to appreciate the positive changes underway and occasionally resort to insulting, often obscene, comments. It’s evident that their opinions are misguided and uninformed, as they lack knowledge about Saudi Arabia and seldom engage with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiatives.
Prominent among these media outlets are Western newspapers known for their antagonistic view of Saudi Arabia, such as Britain’s The Guardian, America’s The Washington Post, and The New York Times. They frequently claim that the sports developments in Saudi Arabia are merely an attempt at “sportswashing.”
Do these allegations incite anger or concern in Saudi Arabia? No, they do not. The country has endured decades of unfounded abuse, while progress continued without paying heed to detractors.
It’s clear that these criticisms will persist until Saudi Arabia disregards its commitment to its people, land, and aspirations, embracing the narrative crafted by these newspapers, which are struggling to stay relevant and face a slow decline.
The ongoing transformations in Saudi leagues result from a comprehensive analysis of Saudi sports’ reality, garnering global attention from both the East and West. This is an undeniable truth, free from fabrication or flattery. Anyone tuning into international channels broadcasting Saudi league matches can confirm this reality.
While Saudi clubs have historically grappled with funding shortages, they now enter contracts worth millions of dollars through meticulous planning. The involvement of the Saudi PIF and its significant stake in popular football clubs has shifted the balance, ushering in swift, comprehensive changes to the sports landscape while upholding the autonomy of Saudi clubs and their independent operations.
Interestingly, the expansion of the player transfer market by Western clubs does not concern The Guardian or The New York Times. However, they seem uncomfortable with Saudi Arabia entering the scene with its substantial financial backing.
Why this bias? It’s simply due to these newspapers adhering to the opinions of their editorial and opinion writers. These individuals fail to recognize that Saudi sports’ resurgence is a small part of a larger modernization endeavor encompassing the country’s economy, digital transformation, education, industry, agriculture, environment, and beyond.
Before these transformations began, significant strategic changes took place in women’s empowerment, human rights, government department management, and judicial independence.
What is undeniable is that Saudi Arabia remains steadfast in pursuing ambitious programs and mega projects. Unfortunately, the Western press remains oblivious to these significant strides. It’s high time these media outlets undergo urgent surgery to replace their lenses, which by today’s standards could be diagnosed as “artificial stupidity.”