Fans to seek legal action after Ronaldo no-show

SEOUL • More than 2,000 South Korean football fans will sue a sports agency after five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo stayed rooted to the bench when his Juventus side played a friendly in Seoul last week, a law firm said on Monday night.

The Portugal captain did not play a single second of the match against a K-League all-star team, ignoring appeals from the sell-out 65,000 crowd at the World Cup Stadium to lace up his boots.

With frustration mounting, some fans even chanted the name of his rival, Argentina and Barcelona skipper Lionel Messi.

When the game was first announced, organisers said the contract with the Italian champions obliged Ronaldo to play for at least 45 minutes, prompting many fans to splash the cash, according to Seoul law firm Myungan.

Tickets, priced from 30,000 won (S$34) to 400,000 won, sold out in just 21/2 hours when they were released on July 3.

"So far, more than 2,000 fans have contacted us to pursue the suit," Myungan attorney Kim Hun-ki told Agence France-Presse.

"We plan to officially file the suit on their behalf sometime next week, if the agency does not offer a concrete plan to compensate the ticket holders before then."

The Serie A team's flight from the Chinese city of Nanjing was delayed so they landed only five hours before the scheduled start, delaying the kick-off by an hour.

Juventus star forward Cristiano Ronaldo before the friendly against the K-League all-star team at the Seoul World Cup Stadium last week. He did not play a single second of the match despite organisers saying he was obliged to play for at least 45 min
Juventus star forward Cristiano Ronaldo before the friendly against the K-League all-star team at the Seoul World Cup Stadium last week. He did not play a single second of the match despite organisers saying he was obliged to play for at least 45 minutes. The Portuguese cited fatigue for not playing. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Juventus' Asian tour had started in Singapore on July 20, when they arrived in the Republic one day ahead of their International Champions Cup friendly against Tottenham.

They lost that match 3-2, but Ronaldo received a rapturous welcome from the crowd of 50,000 at the National Stadium and raised the roof when he scored and entertained the crowd with his trademark "Siii" (yes in Spanish) celebration.

Robin Zhang, chief executive officer of The Festa, the agency which arranged the game in Seoul, told Korean broadcaster SBS she had complained to Juventus vice-chairman Pavel Nedved during the match.

She said he responded by saying: "I also hope Ronaldo plays. But he says he doesn't want to. I'm sorry there's nothing I can do."

Zhang added she would find "ways to compensate" ticket holders. Ronaldo, who gave the exhibition match a pass citing tiredness, has since been subjected to a backlash on social media.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2019, with the headline 'Fans to seek legal action after Ronaldo no-show'. Print Edition | Subscribe