Footballing Weekly: Can fans ever wholeheartedly root for Saudi-backed Newcastle?

Newcastle's Miguel Almiron (front) celebrates with Callum Wilson after scoring in their English Premier League against Aston Villa.
Newcastle's Miguel Almiron (front) celebrates with Callum Wilson after scoring in their English Premier League against Aston Villa. (PHOTO: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The rise of Newcastle United to be among the contenders for European qualification should have been a major, heartwarming development in this English Premier League season that is celebrated worldwide.

Yet, the prevalent sentiment is bittersweet as best, with plenty of dissenting voices over the Magpies coming under the ownership of a consortium that includes the investing arm of the Saudi Arabia government.

The Saudi government has long been criticised for its poor human rights record, and such a takeover is viewed as "sportswashing" - in which governments using sports to improve reputations tarnished by wrongdoing.

As Newcastle continued to progress in the league following a 4-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday (29 October), how do their fans feel about being associated with the Saudi regime? Does it detract from their superb performances under manager Eddie Howe?

"Fans are just overjoyed that Newcastle have got rid of (previous owner) Mike Ashley, after 14 years of hell," said Singapore Magpies fan Terence Ong.

"But no one's singing the Saudi national anthem any time soon. We understand and respect the opinions people may have on our team owners, but generally we are just glad that Eddie Howe has shaped a team we're happy about."

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