July 22, 2024

‘The journey of a lifetime’: Chinese language supporters journey 30 hours to observe Al-Nassr and Cristiano Ronaldo play

RIYADH: Not many individuals would journey for 30 hours to observe a few soccer matches however this doesn’t apply to YunXiang Ding and his spouse Xutong Guo who’re superfans of Saudi Arabia giants Al-Nassr and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The couple are from Changchun, the capital of northeast China’s Jilin province, which is just some hours from the border with North Korea.

On April 1 — and no, that is positively not an April Idiot’s joke — the couple flew three hours from Changchun to Shanghai, waited eight hours on the airport there, after which boarded a nine-and-a-half-hour flight to Dubai.

At this level, they met up with Xutong’s sister Angie, who travelled from Hong Kong, and met Angie’s husband Simon, who lives in Abu Dhabi, to fly three hours from the UAE to lovely Abha in southwest Saudi Arabia. Pal Triston Zhao, who travelled from Shanghai, additionally accompanied the group.

And it was there, on the finish of an exhausting however vastly exhilarating and worthwhile journey, that they watched Al-Nassr play Damac within the Roshn Saudi League on the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Stadium.

Xutong mentioned: “The seats we had within the stadium had been very close to the touchline and we had been near Ronaldo warming up and when he moved out to the wing. It was the expertise of a lifetime. We made a giant, handmade poster banner for Ronaldo, and he noticed it as he was clapping us strolling off the pitch. It was superb. We had been so near him.”

An injury-time Al-Nassr winner from Aymeric Laporte meant the group really received to have a good time their journey to Saudi Arabia — however in addition to the soccer, they had been additionally capable of admire the fantastic thing about Abha. The capital metropolis of Asir province is understood for its gorgeous mountains, greenery, birds and dense juniper forests.

Xutong mentioned: “Abha is so lovely. The clouds, the surroundings — it was extra lovely than the images we noticed on-line may ever present. Seeing Al-Nassr play in such an attractive place was really particular and the Saudi individuals had been so heat and pleasant. On the stadium individuals had been asking us for footage with us, however they mentioned it’s not unusual for Chinese language followers to journey to observe Al-Nassr. Al-Nassr are big in China.”

Using Chinese language public holidays that allowed a 10-day break, the group then flew from Abha again to the UAE, the place they watched Al-Nassr play within the Saudi Tremendous Cup in Abu Dhabi. A 2-1 defeat to Al-Hilal, in a match the place Ronaldo was proven a pink card, did not dampen spirits in regards to the journey or their love for his or her adopted group.

Simon mentioned: “We’re all large Cristiano followers and began supporting Al-Nassr when he joined — however our love for the membership goes past him. YunXiang and Xutong particularly are large followers — they watch all of the matches at house, and these are sometimes proven very late at evening or early within the morning. They’ve to remain up or stand up at varied instances to observe. Individuals on this a part of the world perhaps don’t perceive how devoted they’re and the lengths they go to observe Al-Nassr. And there are various followers like this in China, Al-Nassr are vastly well-liked.”

The price of the journey — inclusive of flights, lodging and spending cash — was “round $5,000 per individual,” Tristan mentioned. However every agreed it was price each penny.

Xutong added: “Cristiano Ronaldo evokes a technology of younger individuals to not surrender simply after they face setbacks. He evokes individuals to be identical to him — and even when their efforts generally don’t lead to a whole good ending, the spirit nonetheless stays. He’s a world-famous famous person and a job mannequin for Al-Nassr and Saudi Arabian soccer. Individuals might imagine our journey to see him and Al-Nassr play in individual took a very long time for journey, however I really feel so privileged to have been in a position to take action. It actually was the journey of a lifetime.”