Sarah Kelly can still imagine the joy and awe on her son’s face after Manchester United players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, high-fived a number of young Everton fans as they came out to warm up.
His face lit up — but now it’s bittersweet,” she says, fast-forwarding her mind more than 90 minutes to a truly surreal incident.
United had been beaten 1-0. Ronaldo had rolled his sock down to reveal blood running down his left shin and was slowly walking towards the visitors’ dressing room.
Leaning over the railings were some of the same kids trying to get their own shots of one of the world’s most famous athletes. “There were loads of other people waving their phones around,” Kelly said.
“Jacob was in a world of his own. As he got out, he said: “Mom, Ronaldo is injured, I’m taking a video”. I was ‘okay’. I didn’t think anything of it. He didn’t even look at Ronaldo.
“He looked at what he had done to his leg and didn’t realize the situation until the phone was on the floor. You can see the shock on Jacob’s face. He’s looking at me like, ‘Oh my god – that just happened’.
“That was the reaction. It’s pretty powerful. He knew there were children. He shook their hands before the game – coming back it was a different story because they lost. Well that’s the game, isn’t it? You can’t win everything.
“If someone did this to you on the street, they would be arrested and interrogated. He’s a father himself and I’m sure if he were a normal person taking his son to a game on a Saturday afternoon and that happened he would be quite upset and shocked too.”
Police and stewards, Kelly says, were at the scene of the incident and were immediately brought to a room to give a statement.
She had even thought that Ronaldo might visit her before they left Goodison Park, but they heard no more until an impersonal apology was posted to Instagram later in the evening.
“He published what he published,” she says. “I was quite shocked that United hadn’t made a statement asking us to contact us, just something heartfelt instead of Ronaldo saying the supporter could come to me.
“That strikes me as very, very rude. Why should we as Everton fans go to United? He said: “this supporter”. It is not stated whether he was an Everton supporter or a United supporter. It’s just a very, very weak excuse 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 the shine out of the game, the win, the experience. I don’t even think about the day I had with him, the good times before the incident. I’m just thinking about the last five seconds. It completely spoiled it. It is shocking.”
She believes his phone is beyond repair. A photo suggests some bruising on Jacob’s hand, but since his thumb initially “settled down,” their main concern relates to the emotional impact. “If he has disabilities, it’s harder for him to express himself and it may take him longer to understand what happened,” she says. “With his autism, it’s kind of hard for him to process things. He processed it his way – that is: “I can’t believe Ronaldo did that, I really liked him”.
“Although he doesn’t support United, Ronaldo is a star. He’s a great player that kids adore. We watched his football journey. He was such a good player. It was a shock. Neither of us slept [on Saturday night].
“We wanted to go to the park [on Sunday] and he said, ‘I don’t want to do that today mom’. I hope that didn’t deter him. I hope that’s just the exhaustion from Saturday.
“I think he’s quite shaken but not really expressing it. I’m sure he will – he’ll process it in his own way.”
Kelly didn’t feel ready to speak to police again yesterday and now wants a few days before she can discuss the situation further.
“I’m just trying to get a handle on my son — he’s my priority right now — and make sure it doesn’t upset him,” she said.
“We talk about it and I ask him how he feels. I hope it gets resolved for Jacob. A shared moment caused this.”
And what about the offer to see United? “I asked him, ‘Do you want to go? Ronaldo said we could go to United. He said, “No mom, I would never want to see him again.” It’s annoying because Ronaldo was one of the reasons he wanted to go to the United game.”
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https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/premier-league/cristianos-apology-was-rude-and-very-very-weak-41540975.html ‘Cristiano’s apology was rude and very, very weak’