King The Villain and Ronaldo The Victim

Every team has at least one player who dives, or at least goes to ground too easily. They’re the player who has you cringing when the slow motion replay comes up on the screen and you see that whilst your man is on the ground, writhing in pain, that actually no contact was made.

Until we have video refereeing, diving is going to continue to be rife in our game, because the stakes are so high. A dive in the box means you might win your team a penalty, a goal that could claim three points, whilst if you get rumbled, the chance of getting in the book is fairly slim anyway. Even if you do receive a yellow card, it’s worth the risk of winning the points for your club.

Cristiano Ronaldo is held up as the biggest offender in this country, which is a point of view I’d have to disagree with. Every time Ronaldo wins a freekick the opposition is livid, their fans jeering, their players surrounding the referee and throwing their arms in the air in disgust. Let’s be honest, it stands to reason that arguably one of the fastest players in the league, with the quickest feet, is going to need to be fouled if he is to be stopped from time to time. For our opposition to claim innocence every time, to fake their outrage at every freekick, is ridiculous, and also goes entirely unpunished by the referee. Since Ronaldo got booked for ‘dissent’ after wagging his finger at the referee at Chelsea, I can’t recall seeing a player at Old Trafford shown a yellow card for dissent, despite their constant berating of the referee for awarding a freekick for a foul on Ronaldo.

In United’s League Cup victory over Tottenham Hotspur, I can only imagine the jeering Londoners, shouting at their TV screens what a cheat Ronaldo was, as referee Chris Foy showed him a yellow card for diving. It will have only been when the slow motion replays were shown that they quietened down and realised how lucky they were for not conceding a penalty with ten minutes to go.

I’m more than aware that Ronaldo has won freekicks when he wasn’t entitled to and there has been the odd penalty, but on a weekly basis he is also not awarded freekicks when he is kicked off the ball. Without even having to dig too deeply in to the archives, there are a couple of incidents from the last couple of months where penalties should have been given, but they weren’t.

February 11th 2009

Sky Sports: Ronaldo looks to be brought down inside the box but no penalty is given. Looking at the replay, he was clearly tripped by Neill, a poor decision by Mr Dowd.

December 29th 2008

MEN: On a night when there was so much talk of burying the hatchet, all that mattered to United was the shot that Dimitar Berbatov buried into the back of the net. And that’s saying something considering Emanuel Pogatetz seemed more interested in burying his fist in Cristiano Ronaldo’s throat.

The Portuguese international was infuriated by a roughhouse challenge from Pogatetz following a corner late on in the first half. The Middlesbrough man has previous — having inflicted a deep gash on the shin of Rodrigo Possebon in United’s Carling Cup victory at Old Trafford in September. Ronaldo though was more concerned about being decapitated than a mere cut to his leg.

The point I’m making isn’t ‘poor Ronaldo’, or to focus on how United are mistreated, rather trying to balance the argument a bit. Ronaldo gets fouled and strangled in the area, yet nothing is done about it. The referee waves play on and the opposition players tell him to get up. Does that make him any less of a cheat for diving when contact isn’t made? Course not, but it makes it more understandable. Yet the moment Ronaldo goes out to even the score, try and win a penalty or freekick to make up for the one he just wasn’t given, he’s torn to shreds.

The most shocking thing about the events of Sunday wasn’t United not being awarded a penalty though, or even worse, Ronaldo being booked for being fouled in the area, rather the reaction by Ledley King. He knew he had fouled Ronaldo, intentionally or otherwise, yet when Foy held up the yellow card, King applauded the decision. He has some bloody nerve and if had been Ronaldo behaving in the same way he would have been strung up for it. For such a well-respected player to behave in such a way is dreadfully disappointing and for all the swearing Spurs fans will have sent in Ronaldo’s direction yesterday, it was the behaviour of their captain that was despicable. King didn’t have his photograph in the any of the papers with “CHEAT” branded on it as Ronaldo has in the past though, unsurprisingly.

No-one will feel too bad for Ronaldo and will instead remember all the times he’s won decisions he shouldn’t have. After all, Ronaldo is a victim of his own behaviour, as much as the boots and hands of our opposition, and for as long as he is in the media spotlight and for as long as he falls over too easily, he will continue to be criticised, and people will continue to forget all the times he has been robbed of decisions.

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