Ann Arbor – Sokol Marku of Canton found out the hard way Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and a host of other Real Madrid stars wouldn’t be playing in Saturday’s International Champions Cup match against Chelsea at Michigan Stadium.
He learned as he and daughter Laura were entering the aisle to find their seats.
“What are you going to do?” Marku said. “We already paid for the tickets.”
Zinedine Zidane’s Galacticos side was full of absences.
Ronaldo was sidelined with a knee injury suffered in Portugal’s Euro 2016 final victory over France. Bale was excused due to Wales’ improbable semifinal run in the same tournament.
Marquee striker Karim Benzema traveled with the team but was held out of the 3-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio, with a back ailment.
“I knew Ronaldo was going to be out,” said Jimmy Shereda, 13, of Lapeer, whose family bought tickets months ago for the ICC encounter. “I didn’t find out about the others until we got to the gate.”
Shereda, wearing a white Real Madrid jersey, watches his favorite team regularly on TV. “He’ll even watch it in Spanish,” his mother Becky said.
The family missed out on Real Madrid’s last visit to Michigan Stadium in August 2014 when the Spanish club played Manchester United before 109,318. Saturday's announced attendance was 105,826.
“It’s kind of disappointing,” his mother said of this year’s roster absences.
The Wessels also obtained their tickets well in advance. The family drove 10 hours from their home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to see their heroes.
Ashtin Wessels, 14, wore a Real Madrid Bale jersey while Camdyn, 11, had on a Ronaldo shirt.
“We watch them on TV all the time,” their father Steve said. “We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them when they are so close.”
Added Camdyn: “I was sad (when she heard Ronaldo wasn’t playing), but I’m still happy to be here.”
Jose Goncalves wasn’t as magnanimous. He traveled from Toronto with his son Mike to see the Portuguese star. Both stood in the Michigan Stadium concourse, wearing green away Portugal jerseys waiting for the match to start.
“That’s what sports is about these days. You pay to see the best players and half the players don’t play?” said Goncalves, who said he paid $175 per ticket. “That’s not fair.”