Lionel Messi (35-Argentina), the “God of Soccer,” has signed a secret contract with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Tourism to promote the country on social media, it has been confirmed.
According to the agreement, which was first obtained by the New York Times (NYT) and made public on Aug. 18, Messi must travel to Saudi Arabia at least once a year for a family trip of at least five days. Alternatively, he can take two three-day trips per year. These “compulsory vacations” pay Messi about $2 million (about $2.56 billion).
Lionel Messi of Argentina. AP News
Prior to this revelation, a controversial photo of Messi touring Saudi Arabia was posted on Instagram last May. The photo, of a sunset from a yacht on the Red Sea, was clearly meant to promote Saudi tourism. The hashtag “#VisitSaudi” on the post is branded by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Tourism. The NYT pointed out that Messi made close to $2 million from this one photo.토토사이트
This sparked criticism that Messi, a superstar with 470 million followers, was “sportswashing” – using sports to cover up a bad reputation for human rights and democracy – by acting as an ambassador for a Saudi government notorious for human rights abuses. At the time, it was Messi’s first trip to Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khattab said it “will not be the last.”
A year later, in May of this year, Messi traveled to Saudi Arabia during the season without the permission of his club (Paris Saint-Germain) and again posted photos on social media. Despite being disciplined by his club, Messi’s promotional activities turned out to be a mandatory part of his contract with the Saudi Ministry of Tourism.
Messi’s family tour and accommodation in a five-star hotel will be paid for by the Saudi government. Messi can bring up to 20 family members and friends with him. According to the NYT, Messi’s contract with the Saudi Ministry of Tourism could be worth up to $25 million over three years. That’s a lot of money for an all-expenses-paid family tour, plus a few other things like posting on social media, filming commercials, and participating in public relations campaigns.
However, she must not say anything that would damage Saudi Arabia’s reputation and must use a government-approved hashtag on her social media posts.
It was also revealed that Messi, who signed a tourism promotion deal with the Saudi government in early 2021, canceled his visit shortly thereafter and wrote an unusually low-key apology letter. According to the letter, which was obtained by the NYT, Messi addressed Al-Khattab as “Your Excellency” and expressed his “deepest regret” for postponing his trip to Saudi Arabia at the time.
Messi isn’t the only one the Saudis have used for sportswashing. The kingdom has lured rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and French soccer star Karim Benzema to its league with big-money offers, as well as buying English Premier League clubs and sponsoring auto racing and golf tournaments.