Steven Gerrard was urged by Amnesty International to speak openly about Saudi Arabia’s ‘atrocious’ human rights record after being named Al-Ettifaq manager.
Middle Eastern country Saudi Arabia, whose sovereign wealth fund owns Newcastle, has long been accused of human rights abuses, a lack of press freedom, widespread executions, jailing of activists and discrimination against gay people.
And Amnesty UK’s Economic Affairs Director Peter Frankental responded to the move by accusing Saudi Arabia of putting their sportswashing into ‘overdrive’ – and called on Gerrard to discuss the issue.
Steven Gerrard was urged by Amnesty International to speak openly about Saudi Arabia’s ‘atrocious’ human rights record after being named the new manager of Al-Ettifaq (pictured)
The Middle Eastern country has long been accused of ‘sportswashing’ away their issues
And Amnesty called on the Liverpool legend to speak out about their human rights abuses
He said: ‘The gathering stampede from players and coaches to join Saudi Arabian football clubs on lucrative contracts is more evidence that Saudi sportswashing has gone into overdrive.
‘Across multiple sports and multiple formats, the Saudi state is deploying huge sums to sportswash its heavily tarnished image and deflect attention from an appalling human rights record.
‘Under Mohammed bin Salman, there’s been a frightening human rights crackdown, with peaceful activists jailed, a staggering 196 people executed last year alone, and there’s still been no justice after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
‘The Saudi strategy on football appears to be to keep ratcheting up the big-name deals to create the momentum for a bid to host the World Cup in 2030.
‘Fifa must apply stringent human rights risk assessments to any Saudi bid for 2030, but we also need to see FIFA, star signings and high-profile managers like Steven Gerrard speaking out about Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record.’
The club announced his arrival with a glossy video on their social media channels. Twitter footage shows highlights of his stellar playing career with the Reds, before a bizarre post showing him speaking Arabic to the club’s fans.
A clearly uncomfortable Gerrard appears to say ‘Hello, my name is Steven Gerrard, I am an Al-Ettifaqi’ before ending with the phrase ‘see you soon’ in English.
Ettifaq are committing millions towards player recruitment to help their new boss build a team of global superstars, and are exploring signing Reds captain Jordan Henderson, Alvaro Morata and Philippe Coutinho for the Liverpool legend.
Steven Gerrard has been announced as the new manager of Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq
Gerrard is taking up his third managerial post after a distinguished playing career
Having originally distanced himself from a move to Saudi, the 43-year-old accepted a lucrative offer from the Dammam-based club. Al-Ettifaq representatives were in London on Monday finalising Gerrard’s appointment ahead of the confirmation.
Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund Public Invest Fund (PIF) have taken control of four of the Pro League’s biggest clubs Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad, and Al-Ahli.
Ettifaq, however, believe they can compete with the PIF-run clubs to challenge for the title next season. Among the players Ettifaq are considering making a play is Brazil playmaker Coutinho.
Gerrard and Coutinho have a long history of working with each other having played together at Liverpool while the South American was signed by his former team-mate at Aston Villa.
The 31-year-old is contracted at Villa Park but it remains to be seen whether he has a long-term future under Unai Emery. Coutinho’s appearances were hampered last season by a series of injuries that also saw him miss Brazil’s World Cup campaign.
Similarly, Morata’s future at Atletico Madrid is also uncertain with the Spanish club ready to let the former Chelsea striker leave for a cut-price fee this summer.
Initial discussions over a move for the Spain centre-forward have taken place amid hope from Al-Ettifaq that they can persuade him to become one of Gerrard’s first signings.
However, Mail Sport understands that Morata is also attracting interest from Italy this summer, with Champions League finalists Inter Milan and Jose Mourinho’s Roma believed to be among the clubs interested, while Al Hilal have also been heavily linked with the goalscorer.