Ruud Van Nistelrooy, former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker, landed at Phnom Penh Airport yesterday afternoon and was swiftly whisked off for first leg of his whistle-stop trophy tour of Phnom Penh.
The 41-year old Dutchman, visiting as part of the UEFA’s Champions League Trophy tour presented by Heineken, will spend time in the kingdom with the trophy stationed at Koh Pich in Phnom Penh.
The occasion marks the first time club football’s most prestigious trophy has reached Cambodian shores.
Van Nistelrooy, with 56 goals to his credit, is the fourth-highest goalscorer in Champions League history and a three-time Champions League top scorer.
Speaking yesterday, the now-retired striker said he was excited about his first visit to Cambodia.
“It’s my first time here in Cambodia. I’m excited to be here and meet the fans, he said.
“The fans here love football. Just as I played for many years, I want the love for football to grow.”
“I’m thankful to Heineken for giving me the opportunity to come here as brand ambassador. I’m excited.”
Chan Vathanaka, Cambodia’s star striker, posted a social media tribute on how watching Van Nistelrooy helped him realise his own dreams of becoming a footballer.
“He is the first football player I came to know of and is a person a truly admire, wrote the Pahang FA forward. “Regrettable that I cannot meet him but I’m very proud he has decided to visit Cambodia.”
Heineken Cambodia competed with over 192 countries for the chance to host the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour. Due to huge local support for the UEFA Champions League and with Cambodia’s fast-developing economy as well as its spectacular areas of natural beauty, the country was seen as a perfect candidate for UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour.
Mexico, Ivory Coast, Paraguay, Malaysia and Ethiopia are the other five nations selected to host the trophy.