Portugal coach bemoans risk to player safety as pitch invaders chase Cristiano Ronaldo selfies

Portugal coach bemoans risk to player safety as pitch invaders chase Cristiano Ronaldo selfies

DORTMUND – Portugal coach Roberto Martinez said it was lucky that none of the multiple fans who invaded the pitch during his team’s Euro 2024 game against Turkey on June 22 had ill intentions after several supporters ran on looking for a selfie with Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Group F match in Dortmund, which Portugal won 3-0, was interrupted on several occasions in the second half as pitch invaders got away from security in an attempt to take a photograph with the 39-year-old superstar at the Westfalenstadion.

The first fan, a young boy wearing a red tracksuit top, emerged from the stand behind the benches midway through the second half and made his way towards the Portugal skipper.

Ronaldo posed smiling for a photo before the pitch invader ran off trying to escape stewards.

They eventually caught up with him and escorted him away to applause from the stands.

At least five other fans managed to get onto the pitch attempting to pull off the same stunt, either during the match or after the final whistle, but Ronaldo grew increasingly exasperated with the unwanted attention.

“It is a concern because today we were lucky that the intentions of the fans were good,” Martinez said after the match, after Portugal secured qualification for the last 16.

“I think that we all love a fan who recognises the big stars who are icons in their lands.

“I think we all agree with that, but you can understand that it is a very difficult moment if those intentions are wrong.

“Then the players are exposed and we need to be careful with that. Probably there is a lot of security and protection and I don’t think it should happen.”

Martinez, the Spanish former Belgium boss, added: “Probably we should give a message to the fans that it is not the right way.

“You are not going to get anything out of it and what you do is that probably the measures get worse for the future and it is not good to get the players so exposed when you get people running on the pitch.”

However, Ronaldo is one of the most recognisable celebrities on the planet and his teammate Bernardo Silva – who scored the first goal in the game – admitted all the attention was the price to pay for such levels of fame.

“I am not really concerned. It is just a bit annoying in terms of always having to stop the game because a fan enters the pitch,” Manchester City player Silva said.

“Apart from that, I think that is the price you pay for being so recognised in the world of football. But in terms of feeling in danger, I don’t think so, not me personally at least.”

Silva opened the scoring midway through the first half, sweeping the ball home after a low Nuno Mendes cross was deflected into his path.

Portugal then doubled their lead just before the half-hour mark in comical fashion.

There appeared no danger for the Turkey defence following a poor pass by Joao Cancelo aimed at Ronaldo, but Samet Akaydin’s attempted backpass rolled beyond the reach of goalkeeper Altay Bayindir and crossed the line despite the efforts of Zeki Celik to clear.

Said Turkey coach Vincenzo Montella: “We had our chances and we didn’t capitalise, they punished us for every little error. It was an even match and the bad luck of the second goal – which can happen in football – changed the balance of the game.

“It was a fairly obvious misunderstanding. Every now and again it happens and unfortunately it happened to the team I manage, I would have preferred it to happen to the opposition but there you go.”

Turkey never looked like getting back into the game and Portugal got their third goal early in the second half as Ronaldo found himself in on goal but unselfishly squared for Bruno Fernandes to finish.

Said Montella: “For long periods of the match, we played on the same level as one of the best teams at this tournament. They were just more clinical than we were.

“They have more players used to playing in matches like this and maybe that made a difference.” AFP

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