Photo: Soeren Stache / dpa
In the men's game, Saudi Arabian football clubs are luring the stars with millions, and now world-class players are also said to be on the verge of a change. "I don't want to give too much away, but there are rumours that about four or five world-class players who are also taking part in the World Cup are going to Saudi Arabia," said Saudi Arabia national coach Monika Staab on the Deutschlandfunk Players podcast.
Saudi Arabian clubs have been causing a stir for a long time with transfers of well-known professionals such as Cristiano Ronaldo or, most recently, Sadio Mané, often worth millions. The big clubs "don't just want to become champions in the men's competition, they also want to become champions in the women's competition," Staab continued. She has been overseeing the development of a national women's team since 2021.
"I think we will see one or two players – including German ones – who may be of retirement age, who will go to Saudi Arabia to play football there," Staab said.
Saudis want to spend even more money on sports
In Saudi Arabia, women's rights are severely restricted. In recent years, there have been only sporadic improvements. For example, since 2018, women have been allowed to drive and since 2019 they have also been allowed to leave the country without the permission of their guardian.
Saudi Arabia wants to bring even more top sporting events to the country and further increase its billions in spending. As the Saudi sovereign wealth fund announced, it has launched an investment firm that will be active specifically in this sector.
According to the statement, SRJ Sports Investments will "invest in the acquisition and development of new intellectual property rights for sporting events, commercial rights to popular and major sports competitions, and the hosting of major global events in Saudi Arabia," the fund's statement said.
Most recently, Saudi Arabia had caused a stir with numerous commitments of football stars for the domestic professional league. The country now hosts a Formula 1 race, the Dakar Rally has been hosted in the country, the controversial LIV golf tour started with oil millions, Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz boxed for the heavyweight world championship, and the Asian Winter Games are scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia in 2029. New destinations could include tennis tournaments on the ATP and WTA tours.
The kingdom, which has been sharply criticized by human rights organizations for numerous misconducts, has been relying on the practice of "sportswashing" for years: With the help of investments in sport, the country's image is to be improved internationally.