Gerrard’s Move: An Unexpected Turn
It’s hard not to cast a quizzical glance at Steven Gerrard, the latest and arguably the most unexpected recruit of Saudi Arabia’s footballing revolution. Once a stalwart of Liverpool, then a celebrated hero of the Scottish Premiership with Rangers, Gerrard’s rapid trajectory as a manager has taken him to Al-Ettifaq – a Saudi Arabian outfit that stands apart from the four state-owned clubs in the Saudi Pro League.
Gerrard’s decision to embrace this new role — one that made him the club’s 10th manager in six years — did not come without controversy. But the man himself insists it is not about the money but the ambition. “I am really happy and I am really excited. I am a coach that is very ambitious,” Gerrard affirms. His rallying cry for unity, to “stay aligned” and “achieve our goals together,” may ring true with fans across the globe, but it’s a story that is yet to unfold.
Embracing the Saudi Revolution: Money and Beyond
The Saudi football league, bolstered by its riches, seems set to lure some of Europe’s brightest talents, and Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq is poised to take a slice of that enticing pie. Gerrard is optimistic, saying:
“I think the league will continue to grow and evolve and I think with fantastic support from the government and the ministers. We all have ambitions to grow and evolve and make it one of the best leagues in the world.”
The motives behind Gerrard’s move aren’t just professional. There’s a personal element, too. Gerrard speaks of a “family feeling” in Saudi Arabia and a sense of welcome that aligns with his priorities: family first, excitement and motivation. Despite the cultural complexities and human rights issues surrounding Saudi Arabia, Gerrard focuses on the people representing Al-Ettifaq and the promise of a supportive, familial environment.
The Saudi Conundrum: Football vs Human Rights
Peter Frankental, Amnesty UK’s Economic Affairs Director, criticizes the “gathering stampede” of players and coaches heading to Saudi Arabian football clubs. Gerrard’s move, he suggests, is another cog in Saudi Arabia’s “sportswashing” machine, aimed at improving a tarnished image and diverting attention from a poor human rights record.
Yet, as Gerrard emphasises the importance of ambition and shared values, there remains a grey area. Is Gerrard naively ignoring these concerns or consciously accepting them in favour of a more palatable narrative?
Steven Gerrard’s latest move is far more than just a career progression. It’s a symbol of the times, where global football is not only about the pitch and the roaring stands. It’s about politics, money, human rights, and cultural shifts. It’s about former heroes donning new mantles in uncharted territories. It’s about the evolution of football into a more complex, global phenomenon that is constantly redefining its boundaries.
Gerrard’s venture into Saudi Arabia’s football revolution is a testimony to this changing landscape. It’s a reminder that in the world of football, as in life, change is the only constant.