Soccer fans flock to Ronaldo’s hotel after he arrives in Iran
Cristiano Ronaldo has been greeted by extraordinary scenes in Iran with hundreds of fans chasing the Al-Nassr bus and then storming the team’s hotel to catch a glimpse of him. The Saudi Arabian club are set to play Tehran-based side Persepolis in their opening AFC Champions League group stage fixture on Tuesday night and they’ve had quite the welcome. Videos released on Al-Nassr’s X feed showed fans running down the road in pursuit of their yellow team coach as excitement ahead of the fixture reaches fever pitch.
Fans young and old were spotted holding up Ronaldo posters and wearing Ronaldo shirts as the Portuguese superstar prepares to play in the Iranian capital. In other social media videos, hundreds of local fans could be seen rushing inside the lobby of the hotel where Al-Nassr are staying while chanting ‘Ronaldo, Ronaldo’. Ronaldo was seen smiling as he was escorted up to his room at the Espinas Palace Tehran by security guards followed by the remainder of the Al-Nassr squad and their staff.
An entire floor has been set aside for the Al-Nassr party with a suite reserved for Ronaldo. In a slightly less chaotic moment, Ronaldo was presented with a traditional Persian rug shortly after touching down at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport and looked thrilled with the gift.
Another present to the Al-Nassr party will come in the form of special SIM cards which will allow them to access the internet without restrictions during their stay. This is something Iranian citizens cannot do with thousands of websites and all global messaging services and social media blocked. Tuesday’s match at the 78,000-capacity Aazdi Stadium does come with some regrets for the locals, however, because it will be played behind closed doors.
This relates to a one-match stadium ban handed down to Persepolis for a social media post ahead of their match with Indian club FC Goa during the 2021-22 season. The now deleted post cited Iran’s invasion of India (in 1738-1740) and historic battles between the two countries to spur their team on ahead of the group stage meetings with Goa.
The message offended people in India and their football association formally lodged a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which handed Persepolis the ban. They didn’t play in continental competitions last season, so the ban will now be served – as their bad luck would have it – for the visit of Al-Nassr and Ronaldo.
In recent days, Persepolis fans have been commenting with apologies on FC Goa Instagram posts in a bid to get the ban overturned at the last minute. But as it stands, the match will be played with no spectators in attendance, which may explain the crazy scenes when Al-Nassr arrived.
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