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Rude Mum of autistic boy 'assaulted' by Cristiano Ronaldo says apology 'very, very weak'

'I was quite shocked United hadn’t put a statement out asking us to get in touch, just something a bit heartfelt'

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Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo assesses the cuts on his leg after the final whistle

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo assesses the cuts on his leg after the final whistle

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo assesses the cuts on his leg after the final whistle

Sarah Kelly can still picture the joy and awe on her son’s face after the Manchester United players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, high-fived a line of young Everton fans as they emerged for their warm-up.

His face lit up – but it’s bitter-sweet now,” she says, fast-forwarding her thoughts more than 90 minutes to a truly surreal incident.

United had been beaten 1-0. Ronaldo had rolled down his sock to reveal blood trickling down his left shin and was walking slowly towards the away dressing room.

Leaning over the railings were some of the same children trying to capture their own footage of one of the world’s most iconic sportsmen. “There were loads of other people waving their phones around,” said Kelly.

“Jacob was in a world of his own. As he come off, he was, ‘Mum, Ronaldo’s hurt, I’m videoing’. I was, ‘OK’. I didn’t think anything of it. He wasn’t even looking at Ronaldo.

“He was looking at what he’d done to his leg and didn’t realise the situation until the phone was on the floor. You can see the shock on Jacob’s face. He looks at me like, ‘Oh my God – that just happened’.

“That was the reaction. It is pretty forceful. He knew children were there. He was shaking their hands before the match – on the way back it was a completely different story because they had lost. Well, that’s the game isn’t it? You can’t win everything.

“If someone did that to you in the street, they would be arrested and questioned. He’s a father himself and I’m sure if he was a normal person, who took his son to a game on a Saturday afternoon and that happened, he would be quite upset and shocked as well.”

Police and stewards, says Kelly, were at the scene of the incident and they were immediately taken into a room to give a statement.

She had even thought that Ronaldo may seek them out before they left Goodison Park but they heard nothing more until an impersonal apology was posted later that evening on Instagram.

“He has released what he has released,” she says. “I was quite shocked United hadn’t put a statement out asking us to get in touch, just something a bit heartfelt, rather than Ronaldo saying the supporter can come to me.

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“That comes across really, really rude to me. Why would we, as Everton fans, go to United? He put, ‘this supporter’. It doesn’t state if he was an Everton supporter or a United supporter. It’s just a very, very weak apology in my opinion.

“It was our first time [together at football]. Jacob is obsessed with Everton and football. It’s his passion. It just took a complete shine off the game, the win, the experience. I’m not even thinking of the day I had with him, the nice time before the incident. I’m just thinking of the last five seconds. It has completely spoilt it. It’s shocking.”

She thinks that his phone is beyond repair. A photograph suggests some bruising on Jacob’s hand but, with an initial discomfort to his thumb having “settled”, her main concern relates to the emotional impact. “With him having disabilities, it is harder for him to express and can take more days to understand what has happened,” she says. “With his autism, he kind of finds it hard to process things. He’s processed it in his way – which is like, ‘I can’t believe Ronaldo has done that, I really liked him’.

“Even though he does not support United, Ronaldo is a star. He’s a big player who kids idolise. We’ve watched his football journey. He’s been such a good player. It was a shock. Both of us haven’t slept [on Saturday night].

“We were going to go to the park [on Sunday] and he was, ‘I don’t want to do that today Mum’. I’m hoping that it has not put him off. I’m hoping that’s just the exhaustion of Saturday.

“I think he’s quite shaken underneath but not really expressing it. I’m sure he will do – he’ll process it in his own way.”

Kelly did not feel ready to again speak to the police yesterday and now wants a few days before discussing the situation further.

“I’m just trying to get my head around my son – he’s my priority at the minute – making sure it’s not left any upset on him,” she said.

“We’re talking about it and I’m asking him how he feels. I hope it gets resolved for Jacob. A split moment has caused this.”

And what of the offer to watch United? “I did ask him: “Would you like to go? Ronaldo said we could go to United’. He said, ‘No, mum, I would never want to see him again’. That’s upsetting because Ronaldo was one of the reasons he wanted to go to the United game.”

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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