Portugal’s superstar Christiano Ronaldo’s absence from preseason friendly in Seoul resulted in a colossal dispute between the K-League, event organizers, and the Korean soccer fans. The original contract clearly stated the star was to play for at least 45 minutes of the game against the K-League all-stars, according to the event organizer. The Fasta, the agency responsible for the event, posted on its blog that the agency, “actively promoted the sale of high-priced tickets based on the information that Ronaldo would play for over 45 minutes.” Despite the contract, Ronaldo spent the entire game on the bench without any fan service, neglecting many of the 66,000 fans who came to watch him play.
Some 65,000 fans showed up for the exhibition match that was held at the Seoul World Cup Stadium in western Seoul on July 26, which had high-priced tickets that went up to 400,000 won ($328). Ticket sales alone are estimated to have amounted to six billion won. However, many fans with high hopes of seeing Ronaldo in action were left disappointed when he was benched for the entire game.
There are some bits and pieces of action from Ronaldo that made the fans still hopeful of watching him play, including cutting the socks, bringing the jersey in the second half of the game, warming up, tying his shoelaces and more. For soccer players, cutting socks and tying their shoelaces mean ‘preparation for the game.’ Not only was there no reason for Ronaldo to cut his socks as he sat on the bench, but the fans also grasped their last hope that he would play since he tied his shoelaces as if he was getting ready to be put into the game. The act of playing around with the fans didn’t end here. After he got home, Ronaldo posted a story on Instagram of him running on the treadmill and wrote, “Glad to be back.” Thousands and possibly millions of Korean fans wrote comments on Ronaldo’s IG post and expressed their anguish, disappointment, and frustration.
At a media conference after the game, the Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri justified the decision of Ronaldo sitting out in the Portuguese international because “he wasn’t 100% fit due to muscle fatigue and we concluded that it would be best for him to rest.”
As the fans grew so frustrated with the situation, they began to sing Lionel Messi’s name during the second half of the game. What was more striking was that Ronaldo’s face was shown in the electronic scoreboard. Every angle of his face was shown, the fans shouted Ronaldo, but as the game approached the end, some fans left the game early, and even ripped and threw out the Juventus uniform with Ronaldo’s name and back number.
Just like Korea’s “No-JAPAN” boycott is heating up amidst the so-called-trade war, the fans in Korea are also calling for “No Ronaldo” boycott after the no-show that left the fans hanging despite their hope to see him play for just a few minutes. The several ‘die-hard’ fans, for example, Kwak Ji-Hyuk, flew to Sweden to press Ronaldo for answers on why he didn’t play in Korea, and posted the video on Youtube. The Korean fan continued to try and get Ronaldo’s attention by holding up a sign in Portuguese which wrote: “You are so nice to your fans here but why did you do that to us?” But to no avail, the soccer star still ignored him. “Even when I put the sign right in front of his eyes, I was utterly ignored,” Kwak recalled.
The only reason why the Korean fans spent the money to watch the game was Christiano Ronaldo. Not only was it advertised that Ronaldo will be playing, but it was a highly anticipated match for the fans to see their superstar for once in their lifetime. Over 2,000 fans were so furious about the no-show that they plan to sue the event organizer and The Fasta for compensation. On a bigger scale, the K-League is preparing a class-action lawsuit against TheFasta with an estimated price of $750 million.
As much as sports take up a big part of our lives, the relationships between fans and athletes should be positive and wholesome. What Ronaldo has done for the Korean fans was definitely a disappointment to many fans, and they hope that these incidents will not happen again.