A mum has hit out at Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo after he appeared to swipe a mobile phone out of her 14-year-old son’s hand.
Ronaldo was filmed appearing to knock an object, thought to be a phone, out of a person’s hand as he walked back to the dressing room following their chastening 1-0 defeat to Everton on Saturday. Manchester United said they were ‘looking into’ the incident.
He has since apologized. In a statement on Instagram, the Portuguese striker said: “I would like to apologize for my outburst and, if possible, invite this supporter to watch a game at Old Trafford as a sign of fair-play and sportsmanship.”
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But Sarah Kelly said it was her son, 14-year-old Jake Harding, who was the target of Ronaldo’s ire. She said she had taken her son to watch his club, Everton, for the first time and sat in the Park End, meaning that they were near the away side as the players left the pitch to return to the dressing room.
Sarah told the ECHO that the phone belonged to her son Jake and Ronaldo “assaulted” him, bruising his hand, by knocking the object to the floor. 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.”
Sarah shared pictures with the ECHO which appear to show bruising to Jake’s hand as well as a phone with a smashed screen. She added: “You can see by the bruise that he’s made contact. I just can’t believe I’m talking about it.”
Sarah said that the incident left Jake, who is autistic and has dyspraxia, in “complete shock” and it ruined his first match at Goodison, she said: “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 said: “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.”
She added: “He’s an autistic boy and he’s been assaulted by a football player, that’s how I see it as a mum.”
On Instagram shortly before 10pm on Saturday night, Ronaldo wrote: “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 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.”
Merseyside Police confirmed that it is liaising with both Manchester United and Everton following reports that a boy was allegedly assaulted by an away player at the game. Anyone with information is urged to contact the police.
A spokesperson for Merseyside Police 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. 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.”
A spokesperson for Manchester United told the ECHO: “We are aware of an alleged incident after today’s game at Everton and the club will cooperate with any police inquiries.”