Posts Tagged ‘Mrsool Park’

Al-Nassr v Al-Khaleej, Monday 8th May 2023, 7pm

May 21, 2023

So many of the games here seem to start around 9pm. That’s understandable given the heat, but it makes for a very late evening, particularly when there’s a post-match taxi ride involved. This one had a much more sociable kick-off time of 7pm, although the trade-off was the forty degree heat. The initial ticket frenzy that had greeted Ronaldo’s arrival had long gone and so despite some rush hour traffic I was able to get to the Mrsool Stadium in about forty minutes.

My season ticket entitles me to enter by a gate without a body scanner and avoid being searched. As you can buy diet coke inside the stadium it’s a notional benefit only, but I like the idea that if you have a season ticket you can be trusted not to bring anything untoward into the ground with you.

Mind you, I don’t obey all of the stadium rules. I was walking around the concourse and noticed that one of the stairways had no stewards checking tickets. I’m always interested in watching games from different viewpoints and so I made my way in and found a seat in a fairly empty section. I was at the other end of the ground to where I normally sit, high up behind a small group of around sixty away fans who had taken up positions down at the front.

The fixture was more meaningful than some I’ve been to recently. League leaders Al-Ittihad had lost their last match and so a home win would allow Al-Nassr to draw level with them at the top, albeit having played a game more. Visitors Al-Khaleej were third from bottom with just two points separating them from the two-team relegation zone. Even a point would be a great outcome for them.

Al-Khaleej made an early impact, clattering Ronaldo in the opening moments and then going a goal up after only three minutes.

Al-Nassr equalized on the quarter hour but rarely played with any conviction. Al-Khaleej’s timewasting stopped them getting into any sort of rhythm and Ronaldo got more and more pissed off as the evening went on. He had a couple of efforts disallowed and even nine minutes of added time at the end wasn’t sufficient for them to nick a win.

The away fans in front of me celebrated their point, which may very well be vital come the end of the season, whilst the two points dropped meant that most Al-Nassr fans were on their way home long before the players had left the pitch.

Al-Nassr v Al-Raed, Friday 28th April 2023, 9.30pm

May 18, 2023

After the trip to Europe I was back in the Middle East with another fixture involving Ronaldo’s team Al-Nassr. The assumption when he signed was that he would elevate the club to another level, but the reality has been that they’ve slipped from the top of the table to a position where the title is now out of their hands.

There was speculation in the media this week that Ronaldo might retire and take up an ambassadorial role with Real Madrid. I couldn’t see that happening whilst he still believes that he’s good enough to lead the line for them. I doubt the Al-Nassr chairman would shed too many tears if Ronaldo were to walk away from his contract though, as he was quoted saying that he’d only been ripped off twice in his life, firstly when he ordered three kebabs and only two were delivered and secondly, when he signed Ronaldo. I felt his pain. Nobody should ever be a kebab short.

I took a taxi to Mrsool stadium arriving a couple of hours early to avoid the jams. There’s decent wifi though so it wasn’t much of a hardship. The taxi driver was keen to wait for me coming out afterwards, four hours later, so either business is slow at the moment or else I’m paying too much.

I’d noticed quite a few Japanese fellas in the concourse, some of them wearing the shirts of Urawa Red Diamonds. They were presumably in town for the Asian Champions League Final the following day and had taken the opportunity to watch another game whilst here. I like that. I discussed Al-Hilal’s prospects in that game with a couple of blokes selling coffee and they were fairly bullish about the Saudi team’s chances. I wasn’t quite so sure as I’ve seen some poor performances from them over the season. Maybe they can lift their game when it matters.

I’d tried to get a ticket for that final, but it appeared to be sold out. However, there were three young lads sat in front of me and one of them mentioned that he was an Al-Hilal fan. He seemed to have buying privileges that I didn’t and so he bought me a ticket and transferred it via WhatsApp. Technology, eh. The only downside of the transaction was that whilst we were arsing about with the phones, I missed the opening goal. Ronaldo providing the perfect retort to his chairman five minutes into the game.

In a way though, I could see the chairman’s point. Ronaldo had a decent game but too many of his team-mates weren’t on the same wavelength and often didn’t anticipate what would have been a killer pass or notice until it was too late that he’d made the perfect run behind a defender. The three million quid a week spent on his wages would probably have been better spent paying six foreign players half a million quid each. You’d still pretty much get your pick of the Premier League for that sort of money, particularly as it’s tax-free.

Anyway, Al-Nassr added a second early on in the second half and then two more in stoppage time. Four-nil flattered them to a certain extent, but they deserved their victory.