Cristiano Ronaldo’s attempt at an apology following an incident involving a 14-year-old Everton fan at Goodison Park on Saturday has been described as “shocking” by the youngster’s mother.
Footage of the incident spread across social media following Everton’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United.
Ronaldo appeared to knock Jacob Harding’s phone to the ground as he left the pitch.
Speaking to Telegraph Sport on Sunday, Jacob’s mother, Sarah Kelly, says her son was unable to sleep on Saturday night. She also said Jacob’s phone was broken and that he is suffering pain to the inside of him thumb, as well as apparent bruising to his hand.
Jacob, who has autism and dyspraxia, was at Goodison Park to watch his first Premier League match with his mum when the incident happened shortly after the full-time whistle.
Admitting his behaviour was wrong, Ronaldo wrote on Instagram: “It’s never easy to deal with emotions in difficult moments such as the one we are facing. Nevertheless, we always have to be respectful, patient and set the example for all the youngsters who love the beautiful game. I would like to apologize for my outburst and, if possible, I would like to invite this supporter to watch a game at Old Trafford as a sign of fair-play and sportsmanship.”
However, the young lad’s mother expected more of a personal apology from the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“The apology or lack of apology was what angered me even more,” Sarah told Telegraph Sport. “I thought, ‘How rude – you are telling everybody you have apologised and you haven’t’. OK, you have put it out to social media but …you should be apologising to my son.
“He [Ronaldo] had several hours to ponder on it. He should have found out our contact details… been private, said he had spoken to us and released something. I would have been happy with that.”
Telegraph Sport add that a representative of Ronaldo and Manchester United have subsequently contacted the family.
Sarah continued: “There were loads of other people waving their phones around. Jacob was in a world of his own. As he come off, he was, ‘Mum, Ronaldo’s hurt, I’m videoing’. I was, ‘OK’. I didn’t think anything of it. He wasn’t even looking at Ronaldo. He was looking at what he’d done to his leg and didn’t realise the situation until the phone was on the floor. You can the shock on Jacob’s face. He looks at me like, ‘Oh my god – that just happened’.
“That was the reaction. It is pretty forceful. He knew children were there. He was shaking their hands before the match – on the way back it was a completely different story because they had lost. Well, that’s the game isn’t it? You can’t win everything.
“If someone did that to you in the street, they would be arrested and questioned. He’s a father himself and I’m sure if he was a normal person, who took his son to a game on a Saturday afternoon and that happened, he would be quite upset and shocked as well.”
Sarah says she also expected more from Man United and admits the incident ruined the day, adding: “He has released what he has released. I was quite shocked United hadn’t put a statement out asking us to get in touch, just something a bit heartfelt, rather than Ronaldo saying the supporter can come to me.
“That comes across really, really rude to me. Why would we, as Everton fans, go to United? He put, ‘this supporter’. It doesn’t state if he was an Everton supporter or a United supporter. It’s just a very, very weak apology in my opinion.
“It was our first time [together at football]. Jacob is obsessed with Everton and football. It’s his passion. It just took a complete shine off the game, the win, the experience. I’m not even thinking of the day I had with him, the nice time before the incident. I’m just thinking of the last five seconds. It has completely spoilt it. It’s shocking.”
How has the incident affected young Jacob?
Sarah said: “With him having disabilities, it is harder for him to express and can take more days to understand what has happened.
“With his autism, he kind of finds it hard to process things. He’s processed it in his way – which is like, ‘I can’t believe Ronaldo has done that, I really liked him’. Even though he does not support United, Ronaldo is a star. He’s a big player who kids idolise. We’ve watched his football journey. He’s been such a good player. It was a shock. Both of us haven’t slept [on Saturday night].”
She added: “We were going to go to the park [on Sunday] and and he was, ‘I don’t want to do that today mum’. I’m hoping that it has not put him off. I’m hoping that’s just the exhaustion of Saturday. I think he’s quite shaken underneath but not really expressing it. I’m sure he will do – he’ll process it in his own way.”
One thing’s for sure, it doesn’t seem as if Sarah and Jacob will be accepting Ronaldo’s invitation as things stand.
Sarah said: “I did ask him: ‘Would you like to go? Ronaldo said we could go to United’. He said, ‘No, mum, I would never want to see him again’. That’s upsetting because Ronaldo was one of the reasons he wanted to go to the United game.”