Fans angry after postponement of Ronaldo’s friendly matches in China
Published: Jan 25, 2024 10:10 PM
Cristiano Ronaldospeaks at a press briefing on January 23 held in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province.Photo: Lu Wenao/GT

Cristiano Ronaldo speaks at a press briefing on January 23 held in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province.Photo: Lu Wenao/GT

Cristiano Ronaldo's much-anticipated visit to play in friendly matches in China came to an abrupt end before a single match was played, as the Portuguese star was forced to pull out due to a muscle injury. The original plan to play two friendlies - one on Wednesday against Shanghai Shenhua and the other against Zhejiang FC on Sunday - has been postponed indefinitely. 

Ronaldo's team, Al Nassr, said at Tuesday's press conference that it was willing to continue training in Shenzhen until January 28 before returning to Saudi Arabia. 

Ronaldo, along with the whole Al Nassr team, remained in Shenzhen on Thursday. Saudi media reports on Thursday suggested the team will return to Saudi Arabia on Friday. There were still Chinese fans gathered around the hotel Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Shenzhen where the team resides.

On Tuesday, a press conference that was initially scheduled for the afternoon was repeatedly delayed until 8:30 pm. Negotiations between the organizers and the team continued throughout the afternoon, leading to speculation and frustration among fans and media alike. The venue, Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Shenzhen, saw a gathering of fans eagerly awaiting any news about the matches.

The delay in the press conference sparked discussions among journalists, and the organizing committee even arranged for food to be provided for the waiting media at around 7:20 pm. However, the media on the 77th floor of the hotel were less interested in the practicalities and the picturesque night view outside, and were wondering why an announcement had not been made sooner.

The organizers eventually explained at the press briefing that the main reason for the postponement was Ronaldo's unfitness to play. Ronaldo also then apologized and said China was his "second home," before emphasizing that the postponement was not a cancellation. He urged everyone not to be pessimistic about the future of the matches, but he declined to take questions from the media. 

Despite Ronaldo's personal apology and the organizers' offer of unconditional ticket refunds and compensation for expenses incurred, some fans outside the hotel refused to leave. Some tried to get a glimpse of their idol by attempting to rush to the team's floor. Despite the sudden drop in temperatures in Shenzhen that day, the emotions of the disappointed fans were running high. As a result, the hotel had to close its gates and temporarily halt elevator operations to prevent more fans from reaching the team's floor.

According to the organizers, Al Nassr informed them on Monday evening that Ronaldo would be unable to play in the first match and his participation in the second match depended on his recovery. Given that Ronaldo was the main attraction for the matches and ticket prices were high - up to 4,580 yuan - the fans were understandably dissatisfied with the prospect of seeing Ronaldo on the bench throughout. From the organizers' perspective, paying a hefty appearance fee to Al Nassr without Ronaldo playing was not a viable option.

The vice chief of the company that organized the tour said they were initially informed that Ronaldo would play in both matches. This led to an influx of fans arriving in Shenzhen in anticipation of witnessing Ronaldo's on-field magic. But Saudi media had reported Ronaldo was injured earlier this month and might be unable to play for weeks, so more effective communication between the organizers and Al Nassr might have prevented this chaotic situation.

The unexpected turn of events surrounding Ronaldo and Al Nassr's visit to China has left fans disappointed and organizers scrambling to manage the fallout. Despite the apologies and compensation offers, the incident raises questions about the transparency of communication between teams and organizers and fans. The hope now is that future events will learn from this episode to ensure a smoother and more enjoyable experience for fans and stakeholders alike.