Ronaldo’s absence from Juventus’ preseason friendly in Seoul last week is the subject of an increasingly acrimonious dispute between the Serie A team, the Korea Professional Football League (K League), the event organizer and soccer fans in the country.
The Portuguese star was contracted to play for at least 45 minutes of last Friday’s contest against the K-League All-Stars, according to the K-League.
Instead Ronaldo spent the entire game on the bench to the dismay of many of the 66,000 fans that went to the match.
At a media conference after the game, Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri justified the decision not to play the Portuguese international because he “was very tired, so we decided to rest him.
“He wasn’t 100% fit due to muscle fatigue and we concluded that it would be best for him to rest.”
However, some South Korean fans are now pursuing a group lawsuit against the event organizer.
Myung-an, the South Korean law firm representing those fans is seeking legal action against The Fasta, the sports marketing agency responsible for the event with Juventus, for a breach of contract and is seeking a full refund of ticket prices for participants.
“The firm decided to go ahead with this lawsuit as football fans ourselves without retaining fee to prevent the recurrence from happening again,” said Myung-an lawyer Kim Hun-ki.
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‘Indignation and disappointment’
After the match The Fasta, which is accused of falsely advertising that Ronaldo would be playing for at least 45 minutes during the match released a statement expressing “sincere apologies” to fans, but also claimed that it did not know about Juventus’ decision to bench Ronaldo in advance.
According to Reuters, The Fasta CEO Robin Chang confirmed to local broadcaster SBS that the contract stipulated Ronaldo play 45 minutes and said she found out that the 34-year-old would not take part 10 minutes into the second half.
The K League issued an apology to fans over Ronaldo’s absence from the field, also announcing plans to also lodge a lawsuit against The Fasta, according to the K League’s public relations team.
In a statement sent to CNN on Thursday, the K League says it feels “indignation and disappointment,” after it failed to receive an apology for the player’s failure to take the field, adding that it felt “cheated by Juventus for its shamelessness.”
“For fans in South Korea, Ronaldo’s appearance isn’t just about a contract, but trust in Juventus with 121 years of its rich history. The fans expected Juventus to offer an explanation and a sincere apology for the reasons of discrediting the trust so easily, but the Juventus club even gave up its last hope.”
Juventus told CNN on Thursday it had no comment regarding the spat, though according to the K League statement sent to CNN the Italian club has told the Korean organization that its “legal team will manage any alleged breach of contract issues.”
According to Reuters, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli responded on Wednesday, insisting his club did nothing wrong and offered no apology for Ronaldo’s absence.
Tickets for the highly-anticipated soccer match sold out within two hours, while the most expensive premium zone seats, commanding a price of $337, sold out in fifteen minutes of ticket sales going live, according to Ticketlink, the designated ticket sales site for the match.
South Koreans fans, who spent a small fortune on tickets specifically to get a glimpse of Ronaldo, were left sorely disappointed by a match that was already delayed due in part to Juventus’ late arrival in the country from China.
Some South Korean fans booed as they saw Ronaldo on the big screen sitting on the bench and others eventually left the stadium during the second half after losing hope that he would compete in the match, local media reported.
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‘Chanting Messi’s name’
“Why didn’t you tell us you are not feeling well? Was it that hard? Far from apologizing, your rude behavior is really incomprehensible and disgusting.”, vented one user on the comments section of a post on Ronaldo’s Instagram account, which was flooded by Korean-language comments.
“Many fans and people in Korea were deeply hurt by the incident. Your rudeness will be remembered forever… You will be remembered as the worst player in Korea,” wrote another.
“They went from chanting Ronaldo’s name to chanting [Lionel] Messi’s name by the end,” wrote another user on reddit.
In a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday, Agnelli writes: “Every single player present in Korea … played the match, except one: Cristiano Ronaldo, who was obliged, according to our medical staff’s advice, to rest due to muscle fatigue after the Nanjing game (against Inter Milan) which was only 48 hours before the one in Seoul.
“Therefore, Mr President, I definitely reject your accusation of irresponsible behaviour, of arrogance, of disregard for fans, who we always honor.
“No one at Juventus wanted to bring disrepute to K League, Korea Football Association, or Asian Football Confederation.”
On Wednesday, Juventus’ website described its Asian Tour as “exceptional.”
“We visited four major Asian cities: Singapore, Nanjing, Shanghai and Seoul, in three different countries, where we either played or created exciting events that allowed us to reach so many of our fans”, said Giorgio Ricci, Juventus Chief Revenue Officer.