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  • Nasima Akter

Ronaldo Receives Warm Welcome From Iranian Fans

Ronaldo Receives Warm Welcome From Iranian Fans

Iranians have had little to celebrate lately due to their struggling economy and international sanctions. This is why there is so much excitement surrounding the upcoming debut of Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the world's biggest football stars, in Iran.

A private plane carrying the Portuguese football superstar, who has won the world player of the year award five times, and his teammates from the Al-Nassr club in Saudi Arabia, landed in Tehran on Monday. This was in preparation for their AFC Champions League match against Iran's Persepolis, scheduled for Tuesday evening.

Ronaldo, who is now 38 years old and considered a seasoned veteran, had a highly successful career with Manchester United and Real Madrid, as well as with the Portuguese national team, before joining Al-Nassr in December for a reported annual salary of $200 million. He has accumulated over 30 significant trophies throughout his career and holds the record for the most international goals scored by a male football player worldwide, a record he achieved in 2021, surpassing Iran's Ali Daei.

“Ronaldo is one of the world’s most important people, and the most followed person on Instagram,” said Pejman Rahbar, chief editor of the Varzesh 3 sports website. “In Iran, visits by major international sports teams or high-profile footballers are rare, which is why this has generated so much excitement.”

Football enjoys immense popularity in Iran, and the national team has consistently participated in the FIFA World Cup. Ronaldo even scored a goal when Portugal defeated Iran during the 2006 tournament in Germany.

Persepolis, which is Iran's most successful football team, boasts a substantial and fervent fan following. However, they won't be in attendance on Tuesday, as the match at the Azadi Stadium, which can hold up to 100,000 spectators, will take place without any fans present. This is due to a ban imposed by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as a result of licensing regulations.

While the absence of supporters is a significant letdown, football fans are still eagerly looking forward to the arrival of the Portuguese star. “I always play as Ronaldo in Fifa video games,” said Rayan, 27. “When I was younger I used to direct message him a lot, hoping we’d make friends and he’d buy me an island,” he joked.

Iranians have cultivated a culture of humor as a coping mechanism for their social challenges, and they often use humor, even with the most delicate topics, creating jokes that rapidly spread online. Ronaldo's arrival is no different, as it has also become a subject of humor and jest among Iranians.

Social media has been abuzz with discussions about the type of haircut Ronaldo will choose and whether his partner, Georgina, would need to use the women's entrance at the airport or face restrictions on sharing a room since they are not officially married.

During his approximately 36-hour stay in Tehran, Ronaldo and his Saudi team will occupy three floors at the Espinas Palace Tehran hotel, with a special suite reserved for the star player. Iranian football enthusiasts, some proudly sporting Ronaldo's CR7 branding on their jerseys, gathered at Imam Khomeini Airport when the team arrived on Monday. A larger crowd also congregated outside the luxurious hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of their beloved idol.

Ronaldo is the crown jewel of Saudi Arabia's ambitious foray into the world's most popular sport. Saudi Arabia's top clubs invested heavily in player transfers this summer, rivaling the spending of clubs in nearly every prominent football league in Europe, which is considered the heartland of the sport.


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