A rare chance for Chinese football fans to see Cristiano Ronaldo play in their country was scuppered on Tuesday, as organisers said the Portuguese star had an unspecified “health” issue that caused two matches to be postponed.
The pair of friendlies featuring his club, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr, were originally scheduled to be held in the southern city of Shenzhen against Shanghai Shenhua and Zhejiang FC on Wednesday and Sunday, respectively.
“For me, today is a sad day,” Ronaldo told a Tuesday evening press conference, during which he apologised to Chinese fans.
“In football, some things you cannot control, and as you know I’ve played 23 years in football,” he said, adding, “unfortunately, I have some problem”.
A spokesperson for the “China Tour” organisers said at the press conference that the sudden postponements were due to a “health reason” involving Ronaldo, without providing further detail.
The matches had been highly anticipated in China, where tickets sold out just hours after going on sale this month.
The organisers assured fans on Tuesday that they would open an “unconditional refund channel as soon as possible” for those who had bought tickets.
Just over an hour after the announcement, a hashtag about the star’s apology was the top trending topic on Chinese social media site Weibo, where it had amassed more than 19 million views.
“I’m coming to China since 2003, 2004, so I feel (at) home here, I feel this is my second home, not only because the welcome of the Chinese people but the culture that you have for me,” Ronaldo said.
“I love this country, I love to be here, I love to be with you guys and I want to play for you.
“We’ve not cancelled the (games)… We want to be back here to your country.”