Valentino Rossi already understand life in a fishbowl. Now he says he knows what it is like to be an animal in a zoo.
Other than on the streets of America, Rossi has not been able to move about freely for many years with autograph seekers and fans following him everywhere. Back when Rossi attended movie premiers in his native Italy, it was not uncommon for fans to push past A-list celebrities in order to mob the motorcycle racer.
South American sporting fans are a very special breed of enthusiast. Rossi and Marc Marquez dined in the same restaurant last night in Argentina and together they were mobbed by fans.
"Yesterday I understand what it is like for animals in the zoo," Rossi joked in the pre-race press conference, "where people take pictures all the time."
Rossi said from the moment he landed in Argentina the local fans have clamored for autographs photos with the nine-time champion. "From now on, I go to the paddock, the hotel, the paddock, the hotel and then the airport," Rossi said.
Whereas Casey Stoner probably would have begrudged fans interrupting his meal, Rossi was in good cheer about it all.
"To have lots of fans is better than to have none," he said.
Marquez was in the same restaurant, and while it was suggested that he was mobbed along with Rossi, Marquez said that it was only after Rossi left the scene that the fans set in on him.
"The problem was Valentino," he joked. "When they saw that Valentino was gone, then they said, 'Look, Marquez, world champion ..."