Ruud Van Nistelrooy, former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker, and brand ambassador for Heineken, landed at Phnom Penh Airport on Monday and was swiftly whisked off for the first leg of his whistle-stop trophy tour in Phnom Penh.
The 41-year old Dutchman, visiting as part of the UEFA’s Champions League Trophy tour presented by Heineken, spent time in the Kingdom with the trophy stationed at Koh Pich in Phnom Penh.
The occasion marked 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.
“I’m thankful to Heineken for giving me the opportunity to come here as brand ambassador. I’m excited,” he told his fans on arrival in Phnom Penh.
“It was great to be able to choose from a few countries to present the trophy and for me it was great to pick Cambodia,” added Van Nistelrooy.
“It’s the third time I’ve done this tour but the very first time for Cambodia to be part of the tour, so it’s very special to be a part of that. I’m very excited about meeting the fans because I know they love their football, love to play, and support teams in the various leagues that I have played in.”
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.
Cambodia Brewery Limited (CBL) Managing Director Roland Bala explained why it was important to bring the player and the trophy to Cambodia.
“It’s a chance for football fans around the world to share in the drama. The UEFA Champions League is a competition in which the best of the best compete, said Mr Bala.
“We wanted to give the Cambodian youth, in terms of the excitement for the Champions League, a chance to witness something they would not be able to in normal life.”
“Bringing the trophy here, as well as a legend like Ruud Van Nistelrooy, we want to inspire young Cambodian footballers to take their football to the highest possible level. For us we certainly look forward to having our own superstars from Cambodia.”
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 I truly admire, “ wrote the Pahang FA forward.
“Regrettable that I cannot meet him but I’m very proud he has decided to visit Cambodia.”