Saudi Arabia declares ‘no national team interviews’ in wake of Newcastle fans’ criticism… Strange air ahead of South Korea game

Saudi Arabia has faced ongoing criticism from local soccer fans as it prepares for the South Korea match in its European base of Newcastle, with restrictions on the team’s media activities.

The Saudis lost 1-3 to Costa Rica at St. James’ Park in Newcastle, England, on Sept. 9 (KST). It was the debut of new coach Roberto Mancini, who took charge of the team for a hefty sum of money.

Newcastle United, who usually play at this stadium, is fully backed by Saudi capital and finished fourth in the English Premier League (EPL) last season. It felt like a de facto home game.메이저놀이터

However, it was hard for the Saudis to feel at home: the crowd was only around 5,000. Newcastle fans were more likely to protest. According to local reports, including The Guardian and Sky Sports, a group of Newcastle fans protesting against Saudi sportswashing staged a demonstration across the street from the stadium. Sportswashing refers to the international dilution of human rights issues in Middle Eastern countries through the popularity of sports.

The protesters were energized by the visit and supportive speech of Saudi human rights activist Lina Al-Hasloul last week. She is the sister of Rina Al-Hasloul, who was imprisoned and tortured in 2018 for her fight to end the ban on women driving. A prominent figure in the Saudi human rights movement has used the national team’s match in Newcastle as a platform to speak out against human rights abuses.

When England international Jordan Henderson, who recently moved to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittifa, was criticized for moving to a country that criminalizes homosexuality, he refused to retract his past statements in support of the gay rights movement and said he was “sorry (for the move).”

The Saudi Ministry of Sports banned him from giving interviews after the Costa Rica game. Mancini only spoke briefly to broadcasters and did not appear in front of the waiting press. It is common practice for both coaches to hold press conferences after international matches, and it is rare for them to skip them for special reasons.

“The Saudi government appears to have wanted to prevent questions about the death penalty at home or the imprisonment of Al-Hasloul from being directed at Mancini,” The Guardian wrote in response to Mancini’s absence.

The Saudis will play South Korea at the same venue on Nov. 13. The Saudis have already lost five straight A matches, and their performance has suffered due to the influx of superstars from their home league, which has reduced the playing time of their national players.

Add to that the messy on- and off-field situation, and it’s clear that the game will be played in subtle undercurrents. If local reporters can’t ask Mancini about the situation in Saudi Arabia, they may turn to South Korea coach Jürgen Klinsmann instead. Unusually for a national coach, Klinsmann has been on the air commenting on various soccer issues.

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