- Al-Nassr arrived in Tehran, the Iranian capital, ahead of the match against Persepolis.
- Hundreds of excited fans clamored for a glimpse of star Cristiano Ronaldo
- Listen to the latest episode of the Mail Sport podcast Everything starts !
Cristiano Ronaldo was greeted by extraordinary scenes in Iran with hundreds of fans chasing Al-Nassr’s bus and then storming the team hotel to catch a glimpse of him.
The Saudi club are set to face Tehran-based side Persepolis in their first match of the AFC Champions League group stage on Tuesday evening and have been fairly well received.
Videos broadcast on Al-Nassr’s X feed showed fans running down the road chasing their yellow team’s coach as pre-match excitement reached a fever pitch.
Fans young and old have been seen holding Ronaldo posters and wearing Ronaldo jerseys as the Portuguese superstar prepares to play in the Iranian capital.
In other videos on social media, hundreds of local fans could be seen rushing into the lobby of the hotel where Al-Nassr is staying chanting “Ronaldo, Ronaldo.”
Hundreds of enthusiastic fans chased the Al-Nassr team bus as they tried to catch a glimpse of star Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the Saudi club’s Asian Champions League match against Persepolis.
Videos posted on social media by Al-Nassr show the extraordinary welcome in Tehran
Sporting sunglasses and clutching a few roses, Ronaldo arrives at Tehran airport
The Portuguese star looked delighted to receive a gift of a Persian rug from Persepolis
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Ronaldo was seen smiling as he was escorted to his room at Tehran’s Espinas Palace by security guards followed by the rest of the Al-Nassr team and their staff.
An entire floor was reserved for the Al-Nassr evening with a suite reserved for Ronaldo.
In a slightly less chaotic moment, Ronaldo received a traditional Persian rug shortly after landing at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport and looked delighted with the gift.
Another gift for the Al-Nassr party will be in the form of special SIM cards that 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 email services and social networks blocked.
Tuesday’s match, at the Aazdi stadium, with a capacity of 78,000 seats, however, arouses some regrets from the locals, because it will be played behind closed doors.
This relates to a one-match stadium ban issued to Persepolis for a social media post ahead of their match against Indian club FC Goa during the 2021-22 season.
Hundreds of fans stormed the lobby of the hotel where Cristiano Ronaldo lives
Fans chanted ‘Ronaldo, Ronaldo’ as they strained to catch a glimpse of their hero
The post, now deleted, cited Iran’s invasion of India (in 1738-1740) and the historic battles between the two countries to boost their team ahead of the group stage encounters with Goa.
The message offended the Indian population and their football association officially filed a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which issued a ban on Persepolis.
They did not participate in continental competitions last season, so the ban will now be served – unluckily – for the visit of Al-Nassr and Ronaldo.
Over the past few days, Persepolis fans have been commenting and apologizing on FC Goa’s Instagram posts in a bid to get the ban overturned at the last minute.
Ronaldo speaks to Persepolis officials as he is presented with a traditional carpet as a gift
Ronaldo takes a look at his welcome gift after landing in Tehran on Monday
But as things stand, the match will be played without spectators, which could explain the crazy scenes when Al-Nassr arrived.
Al-Nassr is the first Saudi club to visit Iran in seven years. Tensions have often been high between the two countries, but a Chinese-brokered deal in March restored ties.
It comes as five American prisoners wanted by the United States left Tehran on Monday in a deal that saw nearly $6 billion (£4.85 billion) in Iranian assets unfrozen.
Despite this agreement, tensions between the two countries remain high against the backdrop of various disputes, notably over Tehran’s nuclear program.