x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ronaldo's curts in China refreshing after years of athletes drivel

Cristiano Ronaldo's curt answers that annoyed journalists in China were refreshing to the ears after years of athletes' drivel.

Cristiano Ronaldo's attitude did not impress the Chinese media, but at least it was not manufactured enthusiasm, our columnist says. ChinaFotoPress / Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo's attitude did not impress the Chinese media, but at least it was not manufactured enthusiasm, our columnist says. ChinaFotoPress / Getty Images

Oh, to have attended that press conference in Guangzhou. How melancholy to have missed it.

They held a press conference last week in Guangzhou, after which some of the Chinese journalists and fans concluded that Cristiano Ronaldo might be ...

Well, they found him to be ...

Oh, I barely can bring myself to type it, but they found him to be ...

Arrogant.

Please help. It's a challenge just maintaining composure in such a moment.

One fan even went so far as to comment that Mr Ronaldo is apparently - and the translation might be clunky here, but - "really not that modest".

Oh, stop!

Other than his profound lack of interest in cloaking his stunningly comprehensive vanity, Ronaldo has never shown any particular arrogance.

He has practised modesty at every turn of his career except for always. Just for starters, here is a man whose move from Manchester to Madrid should have prompted a vast sympathy for the north west of England hair-gel industry.

Squint, and you could envision vats of gel sitting around suddenly unused.

As Diego Maradona has landed in Dubai, it reminds that the borders of the world grow ever blurrier, and that sport certainly helps them blur, and that our similarities matter more than our differences.

The tenets of Argentine culture might intersect only rarely with the tenets of Emirati culture, but the two convene at Al Wasl in the common human interest of attempting to pulverise other sides at football.

As Ronaldo landed in Guangzhou, it reminded that as the borders of the world grow ever blurrier, the result of the blurring and the mingling of cultures sometimes retains the capacity to loose untold laughter.

Now, most press conferences promoting products happen and then exit the memory bank mercifully.

They can cause a glazing of the eyes and, in certain extreme cases, a hard-won form of seated slumber.

They also can excruciate with their manufactured enthusiasm.

But this one might have qualified as an emblem for our times. It managed to lump in China, Real Madrid and a staggering diva. It had China with its 1.3 billion citizens, its peerless portion of internet users, its knack for following European football in earnest and its ambition toward eminent stature; Real Madrid, with their wish to grow their brand ever further (and with other planets still peskily out of reach); and Ronaldo, with his unshakable awareness that he is unquestionably special.

So somebody asked about the condition of Kaka, obviously a pertinent question given its potential impact on the upcoming season, and Ronaldo helpfully elaborated on this by stringing together a total of eight ... letters.

"Perfecto," he said.

So somebody asked about Guangzhou, giving Ronaldo a chance to lend compliments or express curiosity, and he outdid his Kaka answer with an illuminating assessment.

"It's very hot," he summarised.

So somebody asked whether Ronaldo changes his son's nappies, a bid at knowing the human side, a pertinent question given the player allows his image to go festooned on advertisements, but Ronaldo reportedly went huffy on that one.

"Of course, as a father it is normal to change the baby's nappies," he snapped in English.

Somebody asked about ever returning to England, the kind of silly question that can drive news cycles.

"Maybe, why not? You never know."

It is the insight that really grabs you here. The breadth. The common, human understanding.

Even while imperfecto, though, this grand occasion could have lent some edification.

Real Madrid and Ronaldo's shoe company might have learnt that when self-promoting, it can be better to keep most footballers mum unless you can find the rare sorts who relish spokesmanship.

And China, as we all become better acquaintances, could glean a strange reality long known in England (for just one place): footballers often can be more appealing when viewed from 10,000 kilometres away and playing on television than when up close and heard in the same room.

By some strange cultural legacy, the United States hears from its athletes constantly and often burrows into national conversations over the ludicrous things they might utter, while generally ignoring the lot who do say insightful, helpful things.

Dressing rooms open at mandatory hours so that reporters can query athletes.

British reporters, for one group, sometimes covet this access as the English Premier League does not require interviews and the storytellers can go months without hearing from certain main characters.

At illuminating junctures such as last week, they could always balance that yearning with the reassuring thought that their ears import far less drivel.

cculpepper@thenational.ae


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