Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo and his Saudi team, Al-Nassr, arrived in Tehran on September 18 for an Asian Champions League match against Persepolis FC the next day.
Upon the team’s arrival at Tehran International Airport, Ronaldo and his teammates, including Sadio Mané, Aymeric Laporte, Alex Teixeira, Otávio Edmilson da Silva Monteiro and Marcelo Brozović were greeted by Iranian fans.
Officials of the Persepolis club and Saudi diplomats were also present at the airport to welcome the Al-Nassr squad.
Ahead of the team’s arrival, a controversy was sparked by the announcement that the players would be provided special SIM cards that would enable them to access the internet without restrictions – something Iranian citizens cannot do.
The internet in the country is heavily restricted, with thousands of websites and all major global messaging and social media platforms being blocked. The restrictions were ramped up after anti-government protests erupted across the country in September last year.
The match opposing Al-Nassr to Persepolis FC is scheduled to be played at Tehran Azadi Stadium without spectators. The return game on November 27 is to be held in Riyadh.
Two other Saudi Pro League teams – Al-Ittihad, featuring ex-Real Madrid striker Benzema, and Al-Hilal, which recently signed Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain – are scheduled to play in Iran on October 2 and October 3, respectively.
Earlier this month, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced that matches between teams from the two countries would be played on a home-and-away basis for the first time in years.
Matches between Iranian and Saudi teams had been played in stadiums on neutral territory since 2016 because strained diplomatic ties between the two regional rivals.