- STF – named the Spaniard as its tennis ambassador recently
- He said it is exciting
- He will travel to Saudi every year as part of his role
Rafael Nadal Saudi Tennis Federation ambassador portfolio has sparked backlash among a section of fans.
The federation – STF – named the Spaniard as its tennis ambassador in a move geared towards selling a stake of ATP Tour and WTA to Saudi’s.
In a statement to his fans, Nadal said that he is excited to be the new face of tennis in the Middle East where there are plans to popularize it.
Rafael Nadal Saudi Tennis Federation Ambassador
Nadal says being an STF ambassador is giving hope to the younger generation of better days in the sport.
He explained that Saudi Arabia is passionate about growing the sport while also inculcating positive values among players.
Generally, Nadal feels Saudi is doing so much in developing a sport that he has loved for a lifetime.
“Today is about new opportunities for the new generation. The goal is to promote tennis all around the country, to create infrastructure, grow players with positive values and educate them through tennis,” read his Instagram post.
“It’s a big opportunity to develop the sport in a country which is investing a lot in sport and encouraging younger generations to get into tennis.”
He said that he is encouraged by the progress he sees in tennis as he continues to play on the highest professional level.
Why is Saudi Tennis Federation Investing in Tennis?
STF says that the dream of growing the sport in the Middle East is motivation enough for it. The federation believes that focusing on sports, especially tennis, is part of the social functions of nation building.
As part of the agreement, Nadal will annually visit Saudi Arabia. His presence according to his role as an ambassador contributes to the expansion of the sport by providing training for children.
Additionally, Nadal, will inaugurate a tennis academy in Riyadh in support of STF’s push to popularize the sport.
Why is Rafael Nadal Under Attack For Supporting Saudi Arabia Tennis Federation?
Nadal has faced criticism from the tennis community over his support to STF and his subsequent ambassadorial role to Saudi Arabia.
A section of tennis fans are concerned that this Gulf county is sportswashing through its Public Investment Fund (PIF).
Saudi’s PIF is known for investing extensively in sports like golf and Formula 1. However, it has been accused severally of using sports to divert attention from its contentious human rights record.
Some tennis fans took to X to express their discontentment with Nadal’s overtures in Saudi Arabia as a tennis ambassador.
They expressed that Saudi’s interest in tennis was one of its plans to penetrate the global sports industry courtesy of its huge financial muscle.
@tennisnation posted: “Saudi Arabia is an awful regime that violates human rights in some of the worst ways imaginable (Google it if you’re unfamiliar). They’ve poured a ton of money into sports to rehabilitate their image. I’m sure Rafa has good intentions, but this isn’t great.”
Anther X user, Just_Frans implored that as a tennis fan, she is appalled by Nadal’s support of STF given its nasty violation of human rights.
As a fan, a woman and a human being, seeing Rafa endorse the Saudi regime in its sportwashing efforts is a huge disappointment. I hope at least he gets asked the difficult and necessary questions by journalists and fans. This deplorable decision cannot be left unchallenged 👎🏻” she wrote.
Is Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund Taking Over Tennis?
There were insights in the past couple of months claiming Saudi’s PIF was anxious to make a major move into tennis. This is after their success in other sports such as football, golf, boxing among others.
The theory is that Saudi Arabia will play a much larger role in sports in the future than was first thought.
Besides Nadal, other famous tennis players including Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz have welcomed Saudi’s addition to the tour.