Monday, December 01, 2008

Boneheaded English do not deserve Ronaldo...

What a topsy-turvy few days it's been for Cristiano Ronaldo, at the weekend he was sent-off in the Manchester derby, today he has been crowned European footballer of the Year. It is thoroughly deserved and Ronaldo joins a trio of United legends and previous winners of the prestigious Ballon d'Or; Denis Law (1964), Bobby Charlton (1966) and George Best (1968). The last Premier League player to win the award was Michael Owen (it must have been a bad year).

United's Portuguese winger has his critics, but I'm not one of them. Sure, he wanted to join Real Madrid last summer, far from knocking him I personally believe that we should admire him for his honesty. A famous ex-United star joined Real Madrid but went about it in an entirely different way when trying to blame the club for his move, when all along his agents had been trying to work his ticket behind the scenes.

The sad fact is that some fans, for whatever reason, will always try to find fault in big star names. It is especially disappointing, as in the case of Ronaldo that some of them happen to be United supporters.

There have also been accusations that Ronaldo is a "diver". Let's get one thing straight here, only English fans, who are too easily led by our all too often jingoistic media, have a problem with players trying to win at all costs.

In South America and pretty much the rest of Europe, cheating or winning at all costs, is an accepted part of the game. This view is a more adult way of looking at what is after all a game, the aim of which is to win. It is up to the referee to sort out any cheating or gamesmanship.

The English seem to have this old fashioned notion that there should be gentlemen and players. In contrast in Italy all they are concerned about is winning, it is partly why they have won the World Cup so many times and it's also partly why England have only won it once. Former Chelsea star Gianluca Vialli pretty much made the same observations after several years in English football.

Perhaps even worse still is our one-eyed treatment of foreign stars like Ronaldo. After the recent Villarreal game, Wayne Rooney admitted that he'd dived inside the penalty area when seeking to win a penalty. Has anyone come out and called Wayne Rooney a cheat? No, there was more or less a deathly silence.

I'm not sure why some English fans have a general dislike of Ronaldo, I can only put it down to jealousy, because he has it all. Despite what the naysayers will try to have us believe, Ronaldo is a worthy winner of the prestigious Ballon d'Or. All I will say to the boneheads who dislike Ronaldo is that I'm glad he's one of ours and he doesn't play for Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool.

Fergie has often spoken out about the need for protection for players like Ronaldo, because there's another big problem in English football, which is that the opposition and to an extent even referee's are happy to see Ronaldo being kicked up and down dale, it seems to be the case that the officials have the attitude of "it's okay, it's only Ronaldo, he's a cheat you can kick him..".

Part of the problem is that referees are too easily influenced by the crowd and the media and the sad fact is - as Howard Webb showed at the weekend - all too often they do not know when and when not to produce yellow or red cards.

Ronaldo is a great player, in my view he is not a cheat, he will always be fouled because he moves his feet and the ball so quickly. But on this point I have a degree of sympathy with referees' who have to make spit-second decisions.

In bid to help the officials get it right more often there's has been talk of introducing video evidence. On open play, I say forget the notion of introducing evidence, reason being the experts often cannot agree even after reviewing footage over and over again.

Take the example of Ronaldo's unjust first booking at Eastlands on Sunday. Graeme Souness and Andy Gray said that Ronaldo had clearly nudged the ball away from Shaun Wright-Phillips. Fully 24 hours later, Alan Shearer on MOTD2 said it was a definite booking. So who is right? The point is, even after 24 hours had elapsed it comes down to an opinion, but importantly the experts cannot agree. If that is the case then we might as well leave it to the man-in-the-middle. All it would do is transfer responsibility away from the referee and I suppose there's an argument for that in reducing a degree of pressure, but it will not undisputedly mean that referees' decisions are more often right than wrong as illustrated by the point about Ronaldo's first booking on Sunday.


  1. I don't think you can defend people for cheating/diving by saying that they have been brought up somewhere to win at all costs. But i do believe that Ronaldo is unfairly treated by opposition fans. Steven Gerrard is on youtube for the amount of times he has dived but no one ever seems to mention anything about him. The simple fact is that Ronaldo plays for Man Utd and that is what everyone has a problem with.

  2. Ron,

    I'm not attempting to defend Ronaldo. What I'm doing is pointing out that in other countries the fans have a more adult way of looking at 'winning at all costs'; instead of every man and his kid hurling abuse at Ronaldo, they accept the problem is part of the game and so we don't see this gross over reaction which all too often manifests itself in England. Did you notice how young those City fans were on Sunday, the ones hammering Ronaldo?

    Your point about playing for United is of course valid too.


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