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Iranians give Ronaldo rapturous welcome in Tehran

TEHRAN: Crowds of Iranian football fans gave Cristiano Ronaldo an excited welcome on Monday (Sep 18) as his Saudi team arrived in Tehran for the first home-and-away club tie since the two countries resumed diplomatic relations.

Fans chanted the name of the Portuguese five-time world player of the year as he arrived with his Al Nassr teammates to face Iran's leading club Persepolis in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday.

The match will be the first since Tehran and Riyadh reached a China-brokered deal that was announced in March.

Teams from both countries had only played matches on neutral grounds since 2016 when Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran severed ties.

In Tehran, excitement filled the air as fans eagerly waited to catch a glimpse of 38-year-old Ronaldo as he left Iran's Imam Khomeini's airport with his teammates.

"It was a very good feeling, and we all enjoyed it," Al Nassr manager Luis Castro said in his press conference.

"We saw a series of scenes and many Iranian fans were even holding Al Nassr team shirts, which was a pleasant event for us."

Large crowds of cheering fans lined the streets as Ronaldo arrived at a hotel in Tehran on board the team bus.

Others chanting "Ronaldo, Ronaldo!" even flooded into the hotel lobby.

Posters of the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus star with "Welcome", written in Arabic, English and Farsi sprung up in the Iranian capital's main streets.

Ahead of the match, Persepolis manager Yahya Golmohammadi expressed his happiness at hosting the "great team" of Al Nassr, but said his team was equal to the challenge of taking on the Saudi club.

"I think it will be a beautiful game and will have a lot of excitement," said 28-year-old Navid Borhanifar, a Ronaldo