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Fans upset about Cristiano Ronaldo's no-show at friendly match in Seoul

Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo, second from left, sits on the bench during a friendly match between the K-League All-Star team and the Italian football club in Seoul, on July 27, 2019. (Chosun Ilbo photo)

(The Chosun Ilbo) -- Over 65,000 people gathered at the World Cup Stadium in Seoul on Friday to see global football star Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus play -- many of them spending a small fortune on tickets -- only to have their hopes dashed.

    Tickets sold out quickly after fans were promised they would see Ronaldo play at least 45 minutes in an exhibition friendly match against the K-League All-Star team. However, Ronaldo never spent a second on the pitch.

    The day after the match, he added insult to injury for disappointed Korean fans by uploading a picture of himself working out at his house, with a message saying, "Nice to [be] back home," on his social media account. The photo appeared to contradict the reason he gave for not playing in Seoul, which was that he had some muscle problems.

    K-League president Kwon Oh-gap on Saturday issued an apology for Ronaldo's no-show and the mismanagement of the match, which kicked off about an hour late as Juventus had their flight from China delayed.

    The Fasta, the agency that organized the event, said on Sunday, "We were told by Juventus over the phone that they will discuss the matter and those responsible will visit Korea this week to apologize."

    Football insiders said it was a disaster waiting to happen. Juventus' schedule, which called for them to arrive in Seoul on the very afternoon of the match, with an autograph-signing event to be held beforehand, was simply too much hassle.

    According to the K-League, the organizers proposed the match in May. Juventus initially wanted to arrive in Korea on Friday and play the match the next day, but that didn't work out, as it clashed with pre-scheduled K-League matches. Juventus then offered to play the match on Friday evening and leave immediately afterward.

    The organizers and K-League officials asked Juventus several times whether that was really possible, and the club insisted they could manage. The agency said there was even a written agreement that a penalty fee would be paid if Ronaldo did not play for at least 45 minutes.

    But Ronaldo had already complained about the club's tight schedule for the tour of Asia, which included stops in China and Singapore.

    "We complained to Juventus about Ronaldo remaining on the bench, but the club just kept saying that he has no intention of playing and there is nothing the club can do about it," Robin Jang, the CEO of the agency, said.

    The penalty Juventus are required to pay is small compared to the fee they were paid to come to Korea. Fans also blame the K-League for entrusting such a big event to an obscure firm with virtually no experience in sports. According to employment portal Job Korea, the Fasta was established in August 2016 and has only four employees.

    The fiasco could escalate into a legal dispute. One law firm has started to prepare a class action lawsuit against the organizers, demanding a refund for the tickets.

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