People are kicking off at Neymar over his move to Saudi Arabia – but not for the reasons you might think

Neymar flying to Saudi Arabia
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Some of us at the Canary have been told we’re supposed to know and/or care who football star Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is. Big deal. However, what was a big deal is that the football star’s move to a Saudi Arabia-based club has already attracted controversy – but off the pitch.

Neymar: off to join the human rights abusers

Apparently, this Neymar character previously played for Paris Saint Germain, before the club sold him to Saudi team Al Hilal – at a loss, no less, of around €132m. The teams made the deal on 14 August. Now, Neymar has flown to Saudi Arabia to start with his new team; the club being mostly owned by the country’s sovereign wealth fund, which is controlled by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

So, how do you fly from Paris to Riyadh if you’re an international footballer being courted by the human-rights abusing Saudi royal family? You use prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s private Boeing 747, of course:

Read on...

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Emitting as much CO² as 85 of us do in a year

Apparently, Neymar had the plane to himself – excluding crew and whatever multitude of servants were on board. The carbon footprint of Neymar’s flight was around 858 tonnes. That’s the same as the average for 85 people in the UK for an entire year.

As people were pointing out on X (formerly Twitter), we’re the ones who have to worry, though:

Not that Neymar probably cares. This is the same man who once campaigned about the illegal trade in wildlife – and then went on to be fined $3.3m by the Brazilian government for breaching environmental rules when he built his mansion. Oh, and his new Saudi Arabian club will be paying him a reported €100m a season – even less reason for him to care about anyone else except himself.

So, you’d be forgiven for thinking that rich people were taking the rest of us for fools – and you’d of course be right. Moreover, Neymar’s idiocy was a bigger slap in the face to poor people in the Global South.

A slap in the face to the Global South

As the Canary has extensively documented, people in the Global South experience the worst effects of the climate crisis. For example, as Hannah Sharland previously wrote:

figures revealed that 90% of extreme weather deaths between 1970 and 2021 have happened in the Global South. A new release by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) spelled out the devastating toll that extreme weather has had on ‘developing’ nations over the past 50 years. Significantly, it noted how the human-caused climate crisis had “turbo-charged” these events.

That is, while rich people like Neymar dump hundreds of tonnes of CO² into the atmosphere and governments continue to extract fossil fuels, it’s poor people in the Global South mostly dying as a result.

A perfect example is Yemen. Neymar’s carbon footprint for his flight was 2,600 times that of one person for a whole year. Moreover, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute noted that due to the climate crisis, and in the midst of the Western-backed, Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen:

The country is experiencing escalating temperatures, rising sea levels and shifting rainfall patterns, resulting in devastating floods, droughts, water scarcity and soil degradation. These extreme weather events have wreaked havoc on irrigation systems and agricultural livelihoods, amplifying the insecurity surrounding food and sustainable livelihoods.

Footballers: laughing all the way to the bank

So, while Neymar cozies-up to Saudi Arabia, helping burn the planet in the process, the rest of us suffer. Particularly, that is, poor people in the Global South. Yet football is supposedly a working-class game?

Do us a favour. Clubs and many footballers laugh at us all the way to the bank – while not caring about the impact their actions have. Neymar is the perfect encapsulation of this.

Featured image via عشاق عالم الطيران – screengrab

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