Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo gave a spectacular performance when they went head-to- heads in the Paris Saint-Germain’s 5-4 victory against a Riyadh All Star Team on Thursday.
The match was played in the capital city of Saudi Arabia where the two world-class players continue their long-running rivalry for the last time.
Although it was a friendly match game, the match was played at a frantic pace , as a packed crowd at the King Fahd Stadium was treated to a thrilling goal-fight between the French champions and a squad comprised of the top players in Saudi’s national league.
Messi was the one who scored. Messi who scored the first goal by scoring a goal that was well-taken in the space of three minutes, before Ronaldo scored in the penalty area after the two collided in the face of PSG Goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Juan Bernat was then sent away for the French giant for bringing the ball down Salem Al Dawsari as the last man. However, the defender Marquinhos restored PSG’s lead sending in a fantastic strike to Kylian Mbappe.
The thrilling action continued, with Neymar getting his penalty averted before Ronaldo scored a 2-2 draw prior to the break, when he responded the fastest after his first shot struck the post.
The Portugal international is yet to make his debut since making the move from Al Nassr after the World Cup however, he wowed fans on Thursday by doing his signature celebration.
The 37-year old is scheduled to be on the field on Sunday when Al Nassr hosts Ettifaq at Mrsool Park.
The intensity was never diminished in the second period, when Sergio Ramos putting PSG back ahead following another brilliant effort by Mbappe prior to Jang Hyun-soo’s goal levelled the game once more.
Mbappe later got himself on the scoresheet after converting another penalty . the two players Ronaldo as well as Messi were replaced at the hour mark.
Even with the absence of two major names in the field The game went on in a frenetic pace. youngsters Hugo Ekitike eventually put PSG out of the game after making the counterattack.
There was enough time in order for Anderson Talisca to convert a long-range attempt that resulted in only a minor consolation.
“Sportswashing” is an celebration
The game at the exhibition was much more than the organizers could have imagined with the top stars taking part in a thrilling game.
“Players from our league relished the opportunity to pit their talents against some of the best players in the world, such as Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Achraf Hakimi, and, of course, Lionel Messi,” Saudi Pro League chairman AdbulAziz Al-Afaleq stated in an announcement.
“Backed by an incredibly passionate crowd at the King Fahd International Stadium, the Saudi Pro League players truly put in a performance to be proud of that showcased the strength of Saudi Arabian football.”
However, the game was condemned in the past by Amnesty International, which says that the match is a further example of the phenomenon known as sportswashing that occurs when autocratic or corrupt regimes invest in sports and other events to hide their image internationally. This applies to the two countries of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which funds PSG through its firm Qatar Sports Investments.
“Ronaldo’s big-money transfer to Al Nassr and Messi’s engagement by the Saudi authorities as a tourism ambassador are both part of Riyadh’s aggressive sportswashing programme, with the authorities seeking to exploit the celebrity appeal of elite sport to deflect attention from the country’s appalling human rights record,” Peter Frankental, Amnesty UK’s director of economic affairs, stated in an email.
He also said: “Saudi Arabia’s extensive use of sports as a means of exercising soft power is well-known however, with Qatar’s owned PSG playing in Riyadh there are two superpowers in sportswashing that are Saudi Arabia and Qatar – exercising their muscles.
“Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar have both poured huge amounts of money into their sporting initiatives in order to change their image and divert the attention of the world off of their human rights record but the efforts have been only limitedly successful.
“Footballers like Ronaldo and Messi have huge profiles and we’d like to see them resisting being used as the famous faces of sportswashing, including by speaking out about human rights issues in both Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”