South Korea’s K-League and football fans are fuming after superstar Cristiano Ronaldo sat out last week’s friendly against K-League all stars in Seoul.
K-League accused Juventus of “deception” and the enraged fans are contemplating suing the sports agency that arranged the match.
The Korean league said it felt “disappointed and cheated” and demanded an apology from the Italian football champions after the Portuguese forward spent Friday’s game on the bench.
A sell-out crowd of 65,000 made its displeasure known during the game against a K-League all-stars team, which was delayed for an hour after Juventus arrived late from the airport.
After a flight delay, Juventus requested a police escort and also asked for the game to be cut to two 40-minute halves — a proposal that the K-League branded “ridiculous and insulting”.
“K-League cannot help but feel disappointed and cheated by Juventus for its shamelessness,” a K-League statement said.
More than 2,000 fans plan to sue the sports agency that organised the game, one of a series of pre-season appearances by European teams keen to promote themselves in Asia.
The K-League was unhappy with Juventus’s response to an initial complaint, saying it did not contain an apology or explanation.
The football body accused Juventus of a breach of contract by not playing Ronaldo, rejecting its explanation that he was rested on medical advice.
“Ronaldo did not play even for a minute, contrary to the contract guaranteed that he will play for at least 45 minutes,” the K-League said.
“If Ronaldo was unable to play, it would be a blatant deception to include Ronaldo as a substitute on the start list,” it added.
The K-League also criticised the club’s travel arrangements, and questioned its assertion that it took nearly two hours to get through the airport.
“K-League clearly register our profound indignation and disappointment to Juventus’s irresponsible behaviour and manners, and we strongly urge Juventus to offer a sincere apology and explain the reason for Ronaldo’s no-show,” the statement said.
Fans have lashed out at Ronaldo, urging a boycott of products promoted by the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, while “doing a ‘Naldo” has become a popular term for avoiding work in the office.
The controversy was even dragged into the political arena when opposition lawmaker Na Kyung-won reportedly said: “There is one thing in common between (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un and Ronaldo. They both perceive South Korea as a pushover.”