Posts Tagged ‘Ronaldo’

Al-Nassr v Al Taawoun, Friday 17th February 2023, 6pm

March 9, 2023

As you might have expected I’d been keen to see Ronaldo turning out for Al-Nassr. I missed his first game at Mrsool Park, a fixture that sold out pretty much within minutes. I kept checking their website over the next few days and was rewarded with the chance to buy a half season ticket, which in this case equated to the remaining seven games. It worked out at around eighteen quid a match, so not a great deal different to the Boro.

On the morning of the game, I called in at Riyadh Zoo. It’s just around the corner from where I’m staying, and I thought it might be an interesting change from walking around the local park. I’m not really a fan of zoos, although I doubt anyone is really. With the temperatures rising in Riyadh, I arrived early. There were already a lot of people inside, mainly families, which you tend to get visiting Zoos.

Checking out animals that I’d previously seen in the wild brought back a lot of memories, from hundred-strong herds of elephants in Addo, to the sleeping brown bear that Jen and I stumbled across in Shenandoah in the US. There was an Arabian wolf, which I’ve not seen anywhere before. Hopefully I’ll get to see one of those in a more natural environment, perhaps foraging through a wheelie bin for the remains of a chicken shawarma.

A highlight might very well have been the dassies, most of which were sleeping in the sun. I spent a while just leaning on their enclosure wall as most people scurried by in search of something more prestigious. They looked thinner than the ones that would visit our garden in Bronkhorstspruit, although that might be because those little bastards would scoff the roses from the pots that I’d put on the patio.

The trip to the stadium took over an hour to cover a route that should really have taken half that time. The taxi was caught in tailbacks long before we could see the ground, which worked well for the flag and scarf sellers weaving in and out of the stationary traffic.

Once I’d got out I had to do virtually an entire lap of the ground to reach my gate, although once inside I had access to at least half of the sections. There was a separate entrance for season ticket holders and the bloke ahead of me might well have blagged his way in by pretending to talk on his phone as if too engrossed to show his ticket.

My seat for the rest of the season was ok, diagonally back from the corner flag and about three quarters of the way up a reasonably compact ground. I think that there would have been a decent view from just about everywhere. The club had left large flags out for everyone, but I was happy to shift mine along the row for some kid to pick up.

The hardcore Al-Nassr fans were behind the goal to my left. They let off a few flares before kick-off which meant that the opening minutes were played with smoke drifting around the penalty box. Most eyes were on Ronaldo and he started off busily, chasing people down, but in the way that Tuncay used to do for us where it seemed more for show than with any real intent to make a difference.

Al-Nassr went one up a quarter of an hour in, when someone who wasn’t Ronaldo chased a through ball and got there just ahead of the defender. Al-Taawoun clearly hadn’t read the script though and equalized straight after the break, before appearing to go ahead midway through the second half. VAR intervened to keep the scores level and then came to Al-Nassr’s help ten minutes from time by awarding a goal that the ref had originally chalked off.

By this stage the fella next to me was adamant that Ronaldo needed hooking, but that was never going to happen. Al-Nassr saw out the added time to take the points and move back to the top of the table.

Al-Shabab v Al-Nassr, Saturday 14th January 2023, 8.30pm

January 29, 2023

I always get a buzz when I see the floodlights for a ground, even more so when it’s a night match and I’m drawn in like a moth. I wasn’t the only one keen to get inside and there was a fifty yard queue along the wall leading to the main gate. Fortunately, I’d bought a ticket for the far end of the big stand and that meant I went in at the gate further around the stadium. There were no queues at all at that one.

I had the Al-Nassr fans to my left, probably about three hundred in total. That struck me as quite a poor turnout considering that they had sold twenty-two thousand tickets in under an hour for their upcoming home game featuring Ronaldo’s debut. Clearly a lot of those people are following the player and not the club.

I’ve noticed a few fellas here wearing what I presume are camel skin coats. The lack of seams suggests a larger animal than a sheep or goat and, given the location, camel seems plausible. They remind me of the afghan coat I had as a kid. I bought it via mail order from an advert in, I think, the NME around 1980 and a good ten years after the rest of the world had stopped wearing them. If it rained, it smelt like a wet dog making me wonder just what type of skins had been used to make it.

Al-Shabab were in all white and went into the game in third place, with Al-Nassr, in yellow and blue, top of the league. It’s tight at the top though and a two-goal win for Al-Shabab would have moved them into first place on goal difference. They had the better chances in the first half, but it was goalless at the break.

There wasn’t a great deal to excite the four and a half thousand strong crowd until the last ten minutes. An Al-Nassr player volleyed wide when it really was easier to score and in added time Al-Shabab had a header disallowed for offside.

Former Arsenal goalie David Ospina went down injured after the disallowed ‘goal’. I thought he was just trying to run down the clock as Al-Nassr had been doing for most of the game, but he’d busted his elbow.

The Al-Nassr sub goalie warmed up by booting the ball as far as he could rather than practicing his catching or doing any stretching. It turned out to be exactly what was required as he came on, wellied the free-kick up the field to restart the game and then walked off without touching the ball again as the ref blew for full-time. Mission accomplished for Al-Nassr who stayed at the top of the table in their final pre-Ronaldo game.