Is Pizarro right about ‘Big Head’ Ronaldo?
AS Roma’s Chilean midfielder David Pizarro has taken Cristiano Ronaldo’s stepovers, fancy flicks and double dummies personally.
Pizarro was booked for kicking Ronaldo after the Manchester United player performed some of his repertoire during Tuesday’s Champions League match. The Roma man then came out with some stinging criticism.
“There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo has quality, but it is also true that he’s a big head,” Pizarro said after United’s 2-0 win. “He could leave out some of the fancy tricks. It’s necessary to respect the opponent. You can bet that we’ll have something to show him in the return.”
It is not really surprising that a South American has taken exception to Ronaldo’s tricks. All sorts of things are tolerated in this part of the world, but the one big no-no is to deliberately make your opponent look stupid.
During United’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa the previous Saturday, the Brazilian television commentary team were remarking on how disciplined the Villa players remained as Ronaldo effectively taunted them with his footwork. Such behaviour in Brazil, they said, could end in a brawl or worse.
Last year, there was huge debate after Cruzeiro forward Kerlon performed his famous “Seal dribble” — in which he nonchalantly flicks the ball up and bounces it on his head while still running — in a derby against Atletico Mineiro. Atletico defender Coelho ended the run with a crunching tackle, earning himself a red card and sparking a brawl.
Even more controversial was Efrain Viafara’s cheeky ball control during Sport Ancash’s 2-1 win over Universitario in Peru.
With two minutes to go, Viafara performed a sitting motion and brought the ball under control with his buttocks. He was knocked to the ground by enraged Universitario players, a fight ensued, Viafara was chased down the touchline, trouble spread to the stands and the match was abandoned. It all led to this irresistible headline at The Offside: “Efrain Viafara starts a riot with his bum”.
Like Ronaldo, both Kerlon and Viafara said it was their way of playing and that no offence was intended and Graham Fisher, writing at Soccerlens this week, was one blogger to broadly support that view:
“Football is an entertainment industry. It relies on people wanting to watch it. It is these fantastic players such as Ronaldo that bring in the crowds, bring in the money and encourage youngsters to ‘have a go’ at doing what they do.”
Their victims, of course, did not see it that way.
Brazil coach Dunga has suggested that the acid test is whether such players are prepared to perform their tricks with their side losing 3-0 or facing imminent elimination from a major competition. If they are not, suggests Dunga, then they are just showboating.
PHOTO: AS Roma’s Philippe Mexes challenges Ronaldo during their defeat by United at the Olympic stadium in Rome, April 1, 2008. REUTERS/Max Rossi