Crybaby

06.26.14

Why It’s Still OK to Hate Sexy Bastard Cristiano Ronaldo After He Saved Team USA

The pretty, injury-faking boy from Portugal is one of the world’s best. He also says things like, ‘People are envious of me because I’m rich, handsome, and a great player.’

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout. 

Superstar. Sultan of the Stepover. Pretty boy. Injury faker. Crybaby. All of these titles have been attributed Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the absolute best and absolutely most repulsive athletes in any sport. Now he may don the title of America's Savior. 

Thanks to the confusing, beautiful dysfunction of the FIFA World Cup points system, Team USA's ticket to the second round is sort of due to Ronaldo. The U.S. loss to Germany meant Americans were no longer the master of our destiny. USA had four points (three for a win over Ghana, one for the draw with Portugal, nil for Thursday's defeat). Ghana and Portugal were playing at the same time. If their game ended in anything other than a draw, Portugal or Ghana would have also had four points. Ghana would have likely had the edge over the U.S. when it went down to goal differentials, though, so the U.S. needed Portugal to win (but not by too much). Ronaldo's late-game goal to give Portugal a 2-1 win over Ghana sealed the deal.

As much as it pains Americans to admit this, Ronaldo saved our asses. But just because he rescued us this time, it doesn't erase history. Let's not forget the ample evidence for loathing the handsome devil who has been pissing off Europe for over a decade.

In American sports terms, Ronaldo is kind of like a one-man New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, or Duke basketball. When he’s yours, you are in a state of utter gratitude for his agility, his stepovers, and brilliant goal-scoring. When he’s not, every time he takes a dirty dive to get an opponent red-carded out of a game, you’re ready to climb the walls. Literally. It’s the only way to tear down the billboards featuring Ronaldo (really, his bulge) modeling his very own underwear line.

There are a lot of really good reasons to hate Ronaldo other than the fact that he is good enough to singlehandedly ruin your favorite team’s chance at victory. But let’s talk about how good he is. No exaggeration, Ronaldo is one of the two best footballers in the world. He’s scored more than 400 goals in his professional career, and he’s twice won the Ballon d’Or for best player in the world. In short, he has a lot of crushed dreams under his cleats.

What’s interesting is that the other player considered the best in the world, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, doesn’t inspire the same blood-boiling hate, despite the fact his tremendous performance on the pitch for FC Barcelona has broken many a football fan’s heart. That’s mainly because where Messi exudes modesty, Ronaldo acts like the lovechild of a Cristal-fueled one-night stand between Kanye West and Alex Rodriguez.

So many of Ronaldo’s endeavors are built on the assumption everyone wants to be just like him and that he is gracing the world with his presence. He even recently built a museum in his hometown of Funchal, Portugal, that is completely dedicated to himself and his awards. His brother, Hugo, is the museum director (#becausenepotism). Under his tutelage, the museum’s décor is a hybrid of Caesars Palace Vegas hotel and upscale suburban mall Nike store, and Museu CR7 (his initials and his number), proudly houses 150 awards, numerous (major understatement) photographs, and a wax statue of the one and only. Here’s a short list of some of history’s greatest athletes who haven’t built their own museums: Michael Jordan, Jim Thorpe, Wayne Gretzky, and every other athlete with an iota of self-awareness and even the falsest sense of modesty.

The pièce de resistance is the museum shop, which is pretty much a vehicle to hock other Ronaldo items that cannot physically fit in his CR7 clothing shop, which is its own ball of wax (or hair gel). Launched for “fans who want to dress like Ronaldo,” CR7 offers rhinestone-encrusted belts with buckles in the shape of CR7 and leather boots emblazoned with, what else, CR7. He also has started his own line of underwear and socks, which seems like a giant excuse for Ronaldo to remind people that he looks ridiculously good without clothes on.

This is a good place to note that I began this piece with the intention of giving equal space to the good and bad of Ronaldo—and not out of a high-minded sense of objective journalism. I’m a patriotic American who very much hoped Team USA would trounce Ronaldo in last weekend's game against Portugal, but I am also a heterosexual woman who has spent far too much time analyzing Ronaldo naked on the cover of Spanish Vogue with his fully clothed supermodel fiancée, Irina Shayk. That wasn’t (just) because of his looks. It was refreshing to see a cover shot not only where the man was the one in the buff and the woman clothed, but she also was shielding him with her body. Ronaldo is often accused of being a pretty boy, a not-so-subtle way of accusing him of being overly effeminate. The cover’s “switch” in gender roles, placing Ronaldo in the position of objectification rather than his fiancée, was actually an admirable challenge to soccer’s super macho culture, and he doesn’t get enough credit for it.

The cover’s “switch” in gender roles, placing Ronaldo in the position of objectification rather than his supermodel fiancée, was actually an admirable challenge to soccer’s super macho culture.

Ronaldo also does more than the perfunctory share of philanthropy that we expect from our athletic superstars. He gave $165,000 to fund a cancer unit at the Portugal hospital that treated his mother. On multiple occassions he has covered treatments for young children, from a 10-month-old who needed brain surgery to a 9-year-old who required pioneering cancer treatment. When he saw one of the victims of the 2004 tsunami wearing his jersey, he immediately flew to the country and started donating and fundraising.

But let’s get back to the pitch, since that’s what really, or should really, matter for an athlete. Even if we cast aside his smarmy layer of arrogance and tacky commercialism, there is at times an undeniable ugliness to the way he plays. For as many beautiful goals as he scores, bad sportsmanship doesn’t even cover his willingness to exaggerate injuries and resort to angry theatrics to knock his opponents out of games.

Ronaldo earned a permanent legion of haters at the 2006 World Cup, when his dramatic antics after Portugal teammate Ricardo Carvalho was stepped on by England’s Wayne Rooney were apparently what got Rooney kicked out of the match. To add insult to injury, Ronaldo seemed to wink at his bench after Rooney was sent off. At the last World Cup, Ronaldo also was called out for unnecessary dives. George Dohrmann at Sports Illustrated slammed Ronaldo, writing, “it gets to a point where his brilliance as a player is overshadowed by his attempts to game the referee.” Ronaldo is easily considered one of the whiniest players in the history of the game. It came as no surprise when his mom revealed his childhood nickname was “Crybaby,” since that is still the most popular moniker for the 29-year-old.

There are many, many reasons to be repelled by Ronaldo that have nothing to do with his athletic performance. Hell, he was expelled from school for throwing a chair at his teacher because he “disrespected me,” faced rape accusations, and is rumored to have paid off his son’s birth mother to make sure she never has access to their child. But his severe lack of athletic integrity is what is unequivocally repugnant about Ronaldo. Perhaps the one balm for broken-hearted Americans who saw Ronaldo steal their win is that there is a giant grab bag of irritating reasons for despising him and his team.

The greatest may be Ronaldo’s total lack of awareness about why he is one of the world’s most hated athletes. He openly declared, “People are envious of me because I’m rich, handsome, and a great player. There’s no other explanation.” Sure there isn’t, Ronaldo.