Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr football team arrived in Tehran early on September 18 for the first match of the Asian Football Confederation Champions League 2023-24 against Iranian club Persepolis.
However, the team was met by crowds of Iranian fans of Cristiano Ronaldo who gathered at the airport and on the streets for a glimpse of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner superstar, Iranian media reported.
Upon arrival, officials of the Perspolis club offered two silk rugs as gift to Ronaldo and the other hotshot player of Al-Nassr, Sadio Mané.
Fans of the Portuguese footballer performed the “Siuuuu” celebration, which is an imitation of Ronaldo’s expression of “Siu”, simply meaning “Yes” in Portuguese, at the 2014 Ballon d'Or awards ceremony. They also chanted his name continuously.
Mass of fans surrounded the team’s bus and cheered at the airport, and later gathered around the team’s hotel, with some making it through and flooding the lobby, making it difficult for players and staff to pass through.
Photos also showed people climbing up the hills around Tehran’s Espinas Palace Hotel for a chance for a brief look at the superstars. Crowds of over a thousand people remained around the hotel even after the team got settled in their suites.
The ardent fans, however, have no hope of seeing their favourite players on the pitch since the match is set to be held without spectators due to Persepolis club’s disciplinary issues.
The AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Committee ordered Persepolis in May 2021 to play one future match in AFC club competitions without spectators for posting unacceptable content on its social media pages.
Given the team’s absence in the Champions League 2021-22, the ban is enforced in its first home match, i.e. against Al-Nassr in Tehran.
AFC authorities have notified the Iranian football federation and Persepolis officials that only 27 individuals are allowed to be present in the stadium, and in case more people enter the facility, Persepolis will face severe financial penalties, as well as the further prohibition of admitting spectators.
The match between Al-Nassr and Persepolis will happen on Tuesday, September 19, at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.