Football star Cristiano Ronaldo got the name of his new host country wrong while speaking at his first press conference in Saudi Arabia following his multi-million dollar move to Al Nassr.
“It’s not the end of my career to come to South Africa,” he said, in an earnest voice against a backdrop proudly proclaiming “Saudi welcome to Arabia”.
While they can’t have been happy, the Saudi officials at Tuesday’s press conference didn’t seek to correct Ronaldo and it didn’t seem to bother his new Saudi fans, who gave him a thunderous welcome as he appeared in Al Nassr’s yellow and blue kit at his new home ground, Mrsool Park.
As tweeter @NVMakhanye pointed out: “😀 You don’t need to know the name of the country to make €200 million 😀… Anyways, welcome to South Africa Ronaldo 😜”
His reported annual salary of $200m (£177m) is believed to make him the world’s highest-paid footballer.
While it was obviously a slip of the tongue, it hasn’t stopped some South African football fans from dreaming of seeing one of the world’s most famous stars playing for their local team.
And the South African tourism authority is still hoping that Ronaldo will show up at the Moses Mabhida stadium, built in the coastal city of Durban for the 2010 World Cup.
South Africa’s Phakaaathi news site described it as a “stunning blooper”, while its football editor Jonty Mark commented: “Saudi Arabia and South Africa may have the same initial at the start of each part of their respective name, but it is still more than a little bizarre that Ronaldo couldn’t pick the right country in his first presser.”
However, most tweeters in the Arab world overlooked his gaffe, with @alasiri_555 commenting in Arabic: “Nothing wrong with that. Everybody makes mistakes.”
BBC Arabic producer Ahmed Rouaba says the focus of most tweets has been on football, with Al Nassr fans expecting him to win games for them – and lift the club and country.
Al Nassr didn’t seem too bothered, tweeting: “Everyone is happy today 😁💛”
And it also posted a video of Ronaldo arriving in Saudi Arabia, just in case anyone thought he really was in South Africa: