The incident occurred moments after Manchester United’s defeat to Everton at Goodison Park when the visiting players were making their way to the dressing room situated at the Park End of the stadium
The mother of the child allegedly assaulted by Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo has said her son has been left in shock and may not attend another game due to the incident.
Footage emerging on social media appeared to show Ronaldo smashing an object – suggested to be a mobile phone – out of a supporter’s hand as he trudged down the tunnel following the 1-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.
Sarah Kelly, told the Liverpool ECHO took her 14-year-old son Jake Harding to Goodison to watch his team for the first time and the day got off to the perfect start with Anthony Gordon’s strike giving the Blues a much-needed three points in their battle against the drop.
Jake and Sarah were sat in the Park End behind the goal and close to the tunnel where both home and away players walk through at the end of the game. Images showed a frustrated Ronaldo knocking an object out of a fan’s hand – with the 37-year-old subsequently taking to social media to apologise.
Sarah told the Liverpool ECHO that the phone belonged to her son Jake and alleged that Ronaldo had assaulted him, leaving his hand bruised. She said: “At full-time the Man United players started walking off. We were in the Park End so we were right by the tunnel where they came walking past – my son was there videoing them all.
“He filmed all the United players walking through. And then he lowered his phone because Ronaldo had pulled down his sock and his leg was bleeding. He lowered his phone to see what it was – he didn’t even speak.
“Ronaldo then just walked past, with a terrible, terrible temper and smashed the phone out of my son’s hand and carried on walking.” Pictures shared with the ECHO show Jake’s bruised hand as well as the smashed screen on his phone from him.
Sarah said that Jake – who is autistic and has dyspraxia – is in “complete shock” and admitted that it completely ruined his first experience of live football. “I was crying, I was shook up, Jacob was in complete shock – he’s autistic and he’s got dyspraxia as well, so he didn’t really digest what was happening until he’s come home now.
“He’s really upset about it and it’s completely put him off going to the game again. This is the first football game he’s been to and this has happened. We had an absolutely brilliant day up until those final few seconds when they came off the pitch It’s completely ruined the day and put a bad taste in our mouth.”
She added: “He’s an idol. Yes, he’s not from Everton and you like who you like, but Ronaldo’s a big player. My son’s always been like ‘Ronaldo’s going to be there’ – he’s an icon.
“I’d understand if Jake was waving it in his face but he wasn’t near his face, it was down by the floor checking his injury. He’s an autistic boy and he’s been assaulted by a football player, that’s how I see it like mum.”
A Merseyside Police spokesperson has subsequently told the ECHO: “We can confirm that we are liaising with Manchester United Football Club and Everton FC following reports of an alleged assault at the Everton v Manchester United football match today (Saturday 9 April 2022) at Goodison. As players were leaving the pitch at 2.30pm it was reported that a boy was assaulted by one of the away team as they left the pitch.
Action Images via Reuters)
“Inquiries are underway and officers are currently working with Everton Football club to review CCTV footage and are carrying out extensive witness inquiries to establish if an offense has taken place.
“Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact Merseyside Police social media desk via Twitter @MerPolCC or Facebook Merseyside Police Contact center quoting reference number 228 of 9 April 2022.”
Manchester United have confirmed they will cooperate with any police inquiries with Ronaldo himself taking to Instagram to apologize for the incident. He wrote on Instagram on Saturday night: “It’s never easy to deal with emotions in difficult moments such as the one we are facing. Nevertheless, we always have to be respectful, patient and set the example for all the youngsters who love the beautiful game I would like to apologize for my outburst and, if possible, I would like to invite this supporter to watch a game at Old Trafford as a sign of fair-play and sportsmanship.”