Why Cristiano Ronaldo has been given special SIM card ahead of AFC Champions League clash

Cristiano Ronaldo and his Al Nassr colleagues have received a unique SIM card in preparation for their AFC Champions League encounter with Persepolis.

This match holds significance as Al Nassr is the first Saudi team to compete in Iran in eight years. Diplomatic relations between the two nations were reestablished earlier this year with the assistance of China.

Al Nassr and Persepolis find themselves in the same Champions League group, and their initial encounter will unfold at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, the capital of Iran.

Upon arrival Ronaldo and the rest of the group saw their coach mobbed by fans, who even managed to make their way into the Espinas Palace Hotel where Luis Castro’s side are staying.

Ronaldo was handed some roses and gifted a traditional Persian rug, but according tothe Daily Mail,he and his colleagues also received SIM cards for internet access.

Locals are heavily restricted, with tens of thousands of websites and all international messaging and social media all blocked.

Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Al Nassr. Image: Getty

The reasons are political and religious, but proceedings were ramped up around a year ago when protests went on for months in the country following the death of Mahsa Amin in police custody.

As perAl Jazeera,apps like WhatsApp and Instagram were blocked as authorities claimed foreign platforms were supporting the “riots” and endangering national security.

X, Facebook and access to other news outlets are also unavailable.

Citizens have bypassed the ruling with VPNs to change their locations but authorities have grown wise to that and so connections must be altered regularly in what is a fairly tedious task.

Iran’s Minister of Tourism and Cultural Heritage, Ezzatollah Zarghami, called for Ronaldo and his family to download domestic messaging services in order to communicate.

Zarghami told reporters: “He can contact his wife and children and neighbourhood friends and everyone else, and tell them all to install them as well, and he should feel lucky to be able to do that too!”

Meanwhile, Reza Darvish, Persepolis’s president, had encouraged for Al Nassr players and officials to be given the SIM cards.

He said: “I have spoken with the CEO of [major mobile carrier] Irancell, and I told him we want to give players and personnel Irancell SIM cards with unrestricted internet so they can use it from the time they enter Iran till the time they leave,” he said.

No fans will be in attendance for the fixture, with Persepolis serving a one-game stadium ban for a social media post which was deemed offensive.

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