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10th May 2022

Lionel Messi unveiled as an ambassador for Saudi Arabia tourism

Simon Lloyd


Lionel Messi has been unveiled as a new brand ambassador for tourism in Saudi Arabia because, y’know, there’s no such thing as too much money.

Messi, who earns just enough to put food on the table in his day job with Paris Saint-Germain, was pictured in a photo tweeted by the Saudi Tourism Authority on Monday. His PSG teammate Leandro Parades also appears in the background.

“We welcome Lionel Messi and his friends to Jeddah to enjoy Jeddah’s historical heritage and the beauty of the Red Sea,” the tweet read.

Later in the day, Messi shared a picture of himself taking in the sunset from a yacht on his Instagram. The post was labelled as being part of a paid partnership with Visit Saudi.

lionel messi saudi

Messi was told in letter to ‘stand up to the butchers of Jamal Khashoggi’

In agreeing to the deal, Messi has ignored pleas made by the families of Saudi Arabian prisoners of conscience, who last year urged him not to agree to the partnership in an open letter.

In the letter, organised by the human rights advocacy body, Grant Liberty, they wrote:

“You are an inspiration to millions and what you say and do really matters. To put it bluntly – you have enormous power, but with that power comes great responsibility.

The Saudi regime wants to use you to launder its reputation. Prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia have been tortured, sexually assaulted, and held in prolonged solitary confinement – often for months at a time – on an industrial scale.

Women’s rights campaigners, reformist preachers, Shia activists, democracy campaigners, indeed anyone who criticises or even questions the regime can face long-term imprisonment and in some cases the death penalty.

If you say ‘yes’ to Visit Saudi you are in effect saying yes to all the human rights abuses that take place today in modern Saudi Arabia. But if you say ‘no’ you will send an equally powerful message – that human rights matter, that decency matters, that those who torture and murder do not do so with impunity. The world must stand up to those who trample on others.

Lionel Messi you are hero to millions – please use that status for good. Stand up for human rights and say no to the butchers of Jamal Khashoggi and the brutalisers of peaceful campaigners in Saudi Arabia.”

In 2010, Messi was appointed as an ambassador for UNICEF, who last year criticised Saudi Arabia for its war in neighbouring Yemen.

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