Mamdouh al-Muhainy
Mamdouh al-Muhainy is the General Manager of Al Arabiya and Al Hadath.

Ronaldo: Between Riyadh and Tehran 

The visit of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr FC and its star, Cristiano Ronaldo, to the Iranian capital, Tehran, carried dimensions beyond the football match that was played there.

Thousands of Iranians who eagerly flocked to see the famous player and obtain his autograph countered the claims that the Iranian people are isolated from the world.

In reality, like all other nations, they aspire to connect with this new interconnected world, where the phenomenon of global stars like Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and others represents one of its most significant symbols.

The same phenomenon would occur if Ronaldo were to go to North Korea, the fortified and isolated fortress. North Koreans would rush to follow him, just as the Iranian youth did.

This underscores the desire of people to reach beyond their borders, driven by the unprecedented phenomenon of global communication in human history, which has brought the world and its peoples closer together.

Now, we're almost talking about the same movies (recently “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer”), TV shows, following the same sports matches, loving the same stars, debating the same issues, and following the same platforms.

We get angry at Elon Musk every week for raising the prices of the X platform.

Despite cultural differences, the world is now closer than ever, with a strong desire to integrate with each other like never before.

Despite barriers and wars (such as the Ukraine conflict), this has not slowed down the progress of humanity, and technological innovations have not hindered people from coming closer together.

This point shoots down all the ideological and propagandistic narratives about resistance, the West, and imperialism that are often used to grant legitimacy to regimes and impose internal dominance.

Perhaps in the past, these narratives could be sold and marketed during times of global polarization and division. But can one convince the crowds who played music, beat drums, and chanted songs alongside Ronaldo’s room to become martyrs and warriors against the forces of colonization and arrogance?

Here, we encounter another point. Despite the ban on social media in Iran, it is evident that censorship is ineffective. It is difficult to prevent access to information and news, especially for the younger generation.

Unjustified and illogical censorship is counterproductive in this era, leading to rebellion and breaking of barriers to access prohibited information. We see this in many other countries that have banned social media, but they are akin to trying to block ocean waves with a perforated net.

In the past, we used to see so-called attractive success models located in distant countries in Europe and the US.

However, this situation has changed.

Ronaldo is coming from Riyadh, not London or Paris. This is what Saudi Arabia represents. The attractiveness of its economic success model, given its size and status, is the biggest new factor we have witnessed in recent years.

It will undoubtedly have an impact on the region.

As they say, success is contagious. It is the most beautiful infection and virus. We hope it spreads in a region that has suffered for many long decades from the infection of wars and divisions.