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Dramatic Contrast In Ferdinand And Cole's Remarks On Saudi Pro League

Dramatic Contrast In Ferdinand And Cole's Remarks On Saudi Pro League
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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One of the biggest stories of this transfer window has been the mass exodus of Premier League and ex-Premier League stars to the Saudi Pro League for enormous sums of money.

After years of European football seemingly standing unchallenged as the biggest financial power in world football, the Saudi Pro League has moved into a formidable position, with some of the bigger clubs able to entice some massive names from across the major European leagues.

Of course, as remains the case to an extent with the MLS in the USA, many of these stars are in the twilight of their careers.

38-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo was the first to be enticed to move to the Gulf State after his acrimonious departure from Manchester United, while he has also been joined by ageing stars such as Karim Benzema and Jordan Henderson.

Many of these players, however, have faced justifiable criticism for signing up to a league where many teams are directly backed by the Saudi government, a regime credited with numerous human rights abuses in recent years.

The critcism of those joining the Saudi Pro League is similar to that dished out to LIV Golf players, or major sports organisations such as FIFA or Formula 1 moving major events to the region.

The treatment of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community have both been flagged as understandably major concerns, while the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 hangs over the state.


There is natural unease among football fans with the eye-watering sums of money being thrown at some of the sport's biggest names in order to move to the Saudi Pro League - but, when asked about the mass movement on TNT Sports on Saturday morning, there was a stark contrast between the answers of Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand.


READ HERE: Erling Haaland Laughs Off 'Punditry' Dig From Jamie Carragher

Saudi Pro League: Rio Ferdinand makes bizarre take on morality of moves

Cristiano Ronaldo was the first big name to move to the Saudi Pro League (Photo: Shutterstock)

Rio Ferdinand can be a contentious punditry presence at the best of times, but his comments on the Saudi Pro League nonetheless felt hugely wide of the mark.

The ex-Manchester United centre-back was part of the newly rebranded TNT Sports' punditry team ahead of Arsenal's Premier League opener against Nottingham Forest on Saturday morning, and was asked about the wave of Premier League players who have moved to the Saudi Pro League.


Ferdinand appeared to downplay the human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, equating them to those going on elsewhere and in the western world, while saying he was angered by the vilification of players who chose to sign for clubs in the Saudi Pro League:

It baffles me, and it angers me a little bit when you see the comments and negativity around somewhere like Saudi Arabia.

I'm not saying that there may not be certain issues in Saudi Arabia - but we could go round every other country in the world, and find issues in those countries.

You can't say 'there's a rule for one over here, but another rule for someone over there.'

I'm going back to the negative news around people going to Saudi, all the players going there. When Cristiano went there, there was upheaval. I've not heard one negative comment about David Beckham going to America, or Messi going to America, or when Gerrard went to America.

There's no negative words or hype around that, where you get very much negative media with people reporting about Saudi Arabia.

I reiterate - there's problems all over the world, it's about trying to rectify those problems, make those right. People are just making sure that 'Saudi is the wrong place to go,' for various reasons.

I think they [Saudi Arabia] would hold their hands up and say 'there's things we can improve on.'

To say wholeheartedly that this is the wrong thing to do...I think is not fair on the players.

There are of course multiple human rights issues in areas like the United States - but likening these issues to those in a country which still has the death penalty as an optional punishment for homosexual acts, or which has allegedly been involved in incidents such as those in Istanbul in 2018, is dramatically wide of the mark. To use such language serves to diminish the severity of the issues in Saudi Arabia.

READ HERE: Kompany Has Great Reply When Asked On Disgraceful Behaviour Of Some Burnley Fans

Though Joe Cole did somewhat agree with Ferdinand's point on sympathising with the players themselves, he did not choose to defend the Saudi regime, and instead said that football should be mindful of the influence of big investment from overseas upsetting the nature of the game:

It's no secret, behind the scenes, that football people - FIFA, UEFA - investing money, they would love a global league, or a European Super League, where it's guaranteed income, the big clubs come together.

We must protect football, we must always understand that football is a meritocracy, that everyone can come. The stories of Leicester winning the league - these are stories that underline what football is for a lot of people.

You can't buy hundreds and hundreds of years of history, like this club [Arsenal].

The influence of the Saudi Pro League is here to stay, and we can expect many more impassioned debates in the months to come.

Featured image: Shutterstock/TNT Sports

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