Villar Perosa (Italy) (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo on Sunday gave a display of pure star power in his debut for Italian champions Juventus, showing his class on and off the pitch at the club’s traditional alpine curtain raiser.
Nearly 5,000 fans crammed into the compact “Gaetano Scirea” stadium in Villar Perosa at the foot of the Italian Alps, as supporters descended on the small town in order to catch a glimpse of the superstar attacker in his first appearance since signing for 100 million euros ($117 million) a month ago.
They were rewarded with a goal in the friendly between Juve’s first XI and a youth “B” team from their new hero, who also took the time out to sign autographs and pose for selfies while many of his teammates sloped off to the dressing room.
Chants of “Ronaldo, bring us the Champions (League)” filled the air as supporters worked their way through a locked-down mountain town in which 600 police officers were called to a place with a population of just over 4,000 and road blocks stopped anyone entering without a match ticket or proof of residence.
The town’s bars and restaurants were heaving with fans and media hours before the match’s 1700 (1500 GMT kick off), with fans in replica kits wrapped in scarves and flags arriving to see the five-times Ballon d’Or winner take part in one of Italian football’s most curious traditions.
– Fiefdom –
Villar Perosa is the fiefdom of the powerful Agnelli family, the founders of Fiat and the clout behind Juve, who bought their family estate there — nicknamed “The Castle” — in the mid-19th century and established the annual pre-season friendly in the town.
Such was the dominance of the Agnellis over the town that deceased former club chairman Gianni Agnelli was mayor between 1945 and 1980.
Cesare Bertoncello, from Turin, who was pointed out to AFP by security as being the first person to arrive in the queue to get into the ground at 0900 (0700 GMT) recalled the dominating presence of the Agnellis in years passed.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 12 years old back in the 1960s, when (Gianni) Agnelli would arrive here in a helicopter,” he said.
Massimo Savelli from near Siena, some 450 kilometres to the south east, got up at 0600 to be in Villar Perosa for the first time in decades of supporting his team.