Would Cristiano Ronaldo's retirement have evoked the same sympathy?
People from large parts of the globe woke up on a Monday morning to hear the news of Lionel Messi’s retirement from international football. And for those watching the game, if the miss by Gonzalo Higuain and the subsequent spot kick gaffe by Lionel Messi wasn’t shocking enough, the news of the latter’s retirement surely left them perplexed.
Since the announcement of his departure from the international scene, there has been an outpouring of emotions from different parts of the world. A section has come forward to criticise the Argentine’s decision stating that such a move is not one of a champion. They have expressed their disappointment at Messi leaving his national side when perhaps they need him the most.
On the other hand, many have stood by him while at the same time hoping that he will reconsider his decision. World Cup winner Diego Maradona who prior to the final had made it very clear that his country has to win against Chile, stood by the Barcelona forward and even expressed a firm belief that he will return to the national fold in the future. Many argued that Messi was after all a human being and it is only this much heartbreak that he can bear.
People empathised with him while also pointing out that he will come out stronger and better post this incident. Overall, it can be said, a sense of sympathy prevailed over anger and disappointment which in turn raises an important question- had Cristiano Ronaldo retired at the age of 29 and after having missed a spot kick in the final, would he have got the same level of sympathy?
The arrogant one
Over the years, Cristiano Ronaldo has on numerous occasions been labeled “arrogant” by players, managers and fans across the world. Although he is immensely popular and greatly loved by many, unlike Lionel Messi, he does not elicit the same level of affection and support from all. The latter is universally regarded as a “good boy”.
While he is often described as a humble and selfless person, Ronaldo usually has adjectives like brash, haughty, self-important and conceited thrown at him. People describe him as selfish; one who plays only for himself and is only concerned with netting goals. Many have even criticised his on-field theatrics with Iceland manager Lars Lagerback being the latest to join the bandwagon. Thus, Cristiano Ronaldo is a polarising figure; one who divides opinion and is bound to create some unrest among a group of football-loving people.
Hence, to answer the question above, the Portuguese and Real Madrid star will certainly not be sympathised in the same manner as his rival. More so if he had missed a penalty and then quit leaving his national side’s future hanging in the balance.
In the ongoing European Championships, Ronaldo had missed a penalty against Austria in the group stages and that had led to a barrage of criticism against him. But he is not new to this. Whenever he turns out for his country and underperforms, the critics use the opportunity to fire a fresh salvo at the man, unlike Lionel Messi who is often let off the hook way too easily.
It is important to note that Lionel Messi will continue to ply his trade for FC Barcelona in the coming season and perhaps for years to come. So it is not as if he has entirely decided to leave the game. The 2016 Ballon d’Or winner will just not turn out in the famous blue and white stripes. Had Ronaldo been in a similar situation, he would certainly have had to face the wrath of many people. Surely people would have blasted him for turning his back on his nation.
Is the criticism justified?
The answer to this question is a clear no! Cristiano Ronaldo does not deserve the criticism that he gets. Sure he underperforms once in a while and often loses his temper on the field. But then again, who doesn’t? We all have good, bad and ugly days.
There are occasions when we perform to the best of our abilities and there are instances when we let ourselves and our own people down. There are even days when we depict our wild side; the part of our personality that we aren’t really proud of. To judge a person based on such one-off events would be completely unfair. Similarly, it is certainly not right to call Ronaldo arrogant or brash based on a few incidents here and there.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a hard working individual who strives to be on top of his game every single day. For professional athletes across the globe, he has set a benchmark. Just like successful people in the fields of business, politics and entertainment, he is driven by the urge to win and conquer new territories. It is thus natural that in his journey, he is bound to upset a few while giving joy to many.
Hence it is only justified that we react to Ronaldo’s retirement and his failures in the same manner as we reacted to Messi’s. The Real Madrid forward is 31 and is gradually edging closer towards the end of what has been a glittering career. This could be his last European Championship.
Cristiano did not retire at 29 and surely did not go away after missing a penalty. But he will have to hang up his boots in the future. Men cannot go on forever. So when he eventually calls it a day, I hope we stand up and applaud what has been rather than deliberating on what could have been. Mere mortals like us should feel privileged to have seen the magician perform his tricks.