Saudi Football Body Suspends and Fines Ronaldo Over Gesture

Cristiano Ronaldo was suspended for one game by Saudi Arabia’s football regulatory body on Thursday after making a “provocation” gesture on the pitch last weekend.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation said the Al-Nassr captain and former Sporting Lisbon player was fined 30,000 riyals ($8,000) for the incident, which violated rules prohibiting inciting the public during a match.

The ruling cannot be appealed.

Following his team’s 3-2 victory over Al-Shabab, video emerged of Ronaldo making a repeated thrusting gesture towards his groin in reaction to audiences taunting him with the name of his longstanding adversary, Lionel Messi.

The content soon went viral, rising to the top of Saudi social media trending topics.

According to sports publication Al-Riyadiya, Ronaldo stated that he respects all football teams and that the gesture signified “strength and victory” — not offence — and was acceptable in Europe.

The 39-year-old, a five-time UEFA Champions League winner, became the kingdom’s first significant star when he signed with Al-Nassr in January 2023.

Saudi Pro League teams have gone on a spending spree to entice big-name players, and the country is preparing to host the 2034 World Cup as part of a larger push into global sport.

France’s Karim Benzema, Brazilian sensation Neymar, and Senegalese forward Sadio Mane have also departed Europe for lucrative contracts in the conservative nation.

However, some accuse Riyadh of “sportswashing” by utilizing athletics to boost its worldwide brand following growing condemnation of its human rights and environmental record.

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