Getting to the bottom of CR7: Good luck with that, suckers
Ronaldo's backers and supporters know he is useful to their cause. Until that changes, he ain’t going anywhere, folks
You had to be in Praça do Comércio as the sun was teasing towards the Tejo on June 15 this year to feel the power of Cristiano Ronaldo.
There, on Lisbon’s most storied public square, which had been crudely astroturfed and giant-screened and surrounded by expensive plywood bars selling truly junk food and beer that tasted almost as bad as the plastic cups that held the stuff, all in the name of the World Cup, you had to be dead to not feel it.
Ronaldo had made a fourth-minute penalty look like as simple as cracking a smile on a sunny day. In the 44th he had smuggled a flaccid non-pass, non-cross, non-shot into the net.
Here he stood in the 88th, his eyes alight with ambition, his brow brilliant with sweat, the ball inert at his feet, his path to goal surely too short for him to get the ball up and over the wall with a potent enough magic spell to again beat the goalkeeper.
And with his team a goal down. To Spain – the opponents who will forever be the reddest of rags to the smaller but fiercer Portuguese bull.
As the veins in Ronaldo’s eyeballs twitched and the beads of sweat on his face wobbled in exponentially larger living colour, live from Sochi, some 5,000 and more kilometres away, an already standing spectator in the square turned to face that part of the multitude that had dared to remain seated.
He was floppy-haired, bespectacled, runtish, studentish, no doubt a fair way from sober, and through the greasy haze cast by the cooking of all those burgers and the smoke of thousands of cigarettes and a fair few hundred joints, he flung his arms towards the sky.
“Get up! Stand up!”
We did. Not least because, when the energy generated by the runt’s command reached the people three or so deep in front of us and they stood, we could no longer see the screen. But also because everyone present knew, somewhere in the bubbles of the beer sloshing biliously in their bellies, what would happen next.
Ronaldo fired a free kick that swerved and swooped and sank and soared like a rudely deflating balloon at a children’s party. It made David de Gea look like one of those kids after too much sugar-fuelled jumping on the trampoline. In a word, silly.
The ball flew past De Gea but not past his goal, where the net billowed like a new flag flying over a freshly liberated country.
The Praça do Comércio shuddered under the suddenly celebrating horde, who yawped and yowled with primal joy and couldn’t stop themselves from jumping and jumping and jumping like they were sperm cells all over again.
It would be crass to compare the movement beneath our also jumping feet with the feeling of the earthquake that struck the city at 9.40am on November 1 1755, All Saints’ Day if you’re Catholic, and – with the help of the resultant fire and tidal wave – killed somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 of Lisbon’s population of 275,000. But it was hard not to.
And all because of one man. Ronaldo hadn’t beaten the hated Spaniards all on his own. He had done the next best thing, which for the permanently put-upon Portuguese was even better: he had stopped them from winning and so pissed them off. He had kissed the best looking sister anyone will ever have. Can’t touch that.
But you can. Almost four months on the bright sky above Ronaldo is dark with the evil of serious crimes he is alleged to have committed.
Der Spiegel reported two years ago that Ronaldo had raped a woman in a Las Vegas hotel room on June 13 2009 after she had rebuffed his advances. On October 28 this year the magazine revealed that the woman, Kathryn Mayorga, had been motivated by the #MeToo movement to sue Ronaldo.
Seven days later Ronaldo appeared in a full-page advertisement in La Gazzetta dello Sport. To apologise? To tell his side of the story? To protest his innocence?
None of the above. There he stood in the carefully styled photograph, his hair immaculate, his face hard and expressionless, his hands firm on his hips, his bare torso contoured with more muscles than mortals knew existed.
All he wore was his CR7 branded underwear, the fabric snapped impossibly snug over the peaks and valleys of his nether regions.
You might have thought someone at Juventus or CR7 or La Gazzetta dello Sport or among Ronaldo’s advisers or the man himself would have realised, during the days between Der Spiegel’s bombshell and the ad’s scheduled publication, how horrible that would have looked and pulled it.
But no. Besides, by then his club had stood by their man: “Ronaldo has shown in recent months his great professionalism and dedication, which is appreciated by everyone at Juventus. The events allegedly dating back to almost 10 years ago do not change this opinion, which is shared by anyone who has come into contact with this great champion.”
The president of the Portuguese Football Federation, Fernando Gomes, pledged his “total solidarity” while Ronaldo’s “good name and reputation are being questioned”.
These are people, mind, who weren’t anywhere near that Vegas hotel room on June 13 2009. How the hell do they know what did and didn’t happen?
At least Ronaldo was: “What they said today, fake – fake news. They want to promote by my name. It’s normal. They want to be famous – to say my name. Yeah but it’s part of the job. I’m [a] happy man and all, all good.”
That was, it seems, before the spin doctors got to him to polish his views to a bland matte nothingness: “I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me. Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in. Keen as I may be to clear my name, I refuse to feed the media spectacle created by people seeking to promote themselves at my expense.
“My clear conscious (sic) will thereby allow me to await with tranquility the results of any and all investigations.”
Ronaldo’s sponsors weren’t so sure. “We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said.
Here’s EA Sports: “We have seen the concerning report that details allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo. We are closely monitoring the situation, as we expect cover athletes and ambassadors to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with EA’s values.”
Note the utter absence in all those inadequate bits of corporate speak of emotion or empathy or even an acknowledgement that a vicious crime may have been committed.
Sadly, that is not at all surprising. To Nike and EA Sports, Ronaldo is just another platform carrying their logo. As long as he does so profitably they won’t care what he gets up to behind closed doors.
Companies like these are dehumanised and they dehumanise Ronaldo in much the same way as rape dehumanises its perpetrators and victims.
What matters to them and their ilk is money. The value of Juventus’s shares, which had leapt 100% since they signed Ronaldo for £99.3m in July, crashed by 10% in the wake of Der Spiegel’s story.
Thing is, in the 24 hours after Juventus announced Ronaldo’s acquisition they sold 520,000 of his replica shirts. At £91 a pop, that’s £47.32m of what they spent on him recouped. Almost half. In one day.
Ronaldo will be defended by capitalists as long as he remains a cash cow. Yes, the gender joke is intended.
The case for the converse is Harvey Weinstein, who hadn’t made a well-received film for years before he was outed as – too many women say for them not to be taken seriously – a sex criminal. Weinstein was no longer useful to Hollywood, so Hollywood was happy to hang him out to dry.
Similarly, nothing had been heard from Bill Cosby for years before he was accused and, happily, convicted of sexual assault and jailed.
Donald Trump has a slew of similar allegations hanging over his head. But his backers and supporters know he is useful to their cause. Until that changes, he ain’t going anywhere, folks.
For the same reason, neither is Ronaldo.