UAE: Fans Thrilled To Watch Ronaldo In Action As Messi Chants Fill Stadium


(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Tue 5 Mar 2024, 12:39 PM

Last updated: Tue 5 Mar 2024, 1:12 PM

When Cristiano Ronaldo played the lead role in Real Madrid's 2017 Fifa Club World Cup triumph in Abu Dhabi, he had the entire stadium at his feet as fans gave him a standing ovation for his match-winning goal in the final against Brazilian club Gremio.

Seven years on, the age-defying footballing superstar was back in the UAE again, this time leading the challenge of Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr against the UAE's Al Ain FC in an AFC Asian Champions League quarterfinal clash.

Naturally, if a five-time Ballon d'Or winner sets foot in your country for a serious game of football, you could be tempted to expect an avalanche of fans gatecrashing the arena.

Several ticketless fans did arrive at the venue on Monday to watch one of the greatest footballers of all time in action.

But not all of them at the majestic Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium were rooting for Ronaldo.

Scores of Emirati fans drove from Abu Dhabi to support Al Ain, the 14-time UAE champions, in Monday's game.

Even many Omani fans drove to the Garden City from the neighbouring country to cheer for Al Ain FC.

But there were still many football fans savouring the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch a true footballing icon live.

Pong Wang, a Vietnamese tourist, arrived in Al Ain from Ras Al Khaimah without match tickets with his friends.

Luckily, a Saudi national who noticed his desperate plea for tickets at the main gate, generously offered him and his friends tickets for free.

As Wang grabbed a seat at the stadium, he probably felt like a classic centre-forward who just received the perfect pass to score an exquisite goal.

But there were no goals for Ronaldo and Al Nassr on Monday night as Al Ain won by a solitary goal, drawing deafening cheers and even chants of 'Messi, Messi' from the home fans!

Just days after being slapped with a suspension for his controversial reaction to rival fans who taunted him with chants of 'Messi, Messi' in Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo was again reminded of Lionel Messi, his great Argentinian rival.

This time those chants came when his team was desperately trying to save the match against an inspired Al Ain team.

An equaliser never came from the Saudi club as jubilant Al Ain fans returned home singing their club anthem.

“It was wonderful, we showed Ronaldo and Al Nassr that we are 'The Boss',” Ahmed, an Emirati teenager, said, referring to Al Ain FC's nickname 'The Boss'.

“I didn't, but a lot of Al Ain fans chanted Messi's name. He (Ronaldo) didn't like it, but he didn't react. He was calm.”

Not once did the former Real Madrid striker react to the chants during the match on Monday.

But after the final whistle, Ronaldo smiled at the fans before disappearing into the tunnel.

He will now wait for the second leg of the quarterfinal clash on March 11 in Riyadh when Al Nassr will hope to overturn the 1-0 deficit against Al Ain and advance to the semifinal of the competition.

ALSO READ:

  • Ronaldo in Al Ain: Football has no boundaries, message from fans
  • 'Not here for Ronaldo': Fans drive to UAE from Oman, arrive 5 hours before match to support Al Ain

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