SEOUL: More than 2,000 South Korean football fans will sue a sports agency after superstar Cristiano Ronaldo stayed on the bench when his Juventus side played a friendly in Seoul last week, a law firm said Monday (Jul 29).
The star Portuguese striker did not play a single second of the match against a K-league all-star team, ignoring appeals from the sell-out 65,000 crowd at the World Cup Stadium to lace up his boots.
With frustration mounting some even chanted the name of his great Argentine rival Lionel Messi.
When the game was first announced, organisers said the contract with Juventus obliged Ronaldo to play for at least 45 minutes, prompting many fans to splash out, according to Seoul law firm Myungan.
Tickets - priced from 30,000 won (US$25) to 400,000 won (US$338) - sold out in just two and a half hours when they were released on Jul 3.
The lawsuit is seeking compensation of 70,000 won (48.5 pounds) per ticket, 1,000 won for the ticket commission fee, and 1 million won each for compensation for "mental anguish".
"Normally in such cases the plaintiffs will be refunded the price of the tickets, but I put this under a special case since the company, through false advertising, took advantage of the football star's fans," lawyer Kim Min-ki said.
"For now we have two plaintiffs who sued the company, but I have been getting a lot of calls today and I assume there will be some 60,000 more.
"As for the mental anguish part, I'd like to say some of them are raucous fans, the real avid fans. So for them it is very painful because they love Ronaldo and want to protect him, but they can't, given the situation."
The Italian team's flight from Nanjing in China was delayed, so that they landed only five hours before the scheduled start, delaying kick-off by an hour.
Robin Zhang, CEO of The Festa, the Korean agency which arranged the game, told local broadcaster SBS in tears that she had complained to Juventus vice chairman Pavel Nedved during the match.
He responded: "'I also hope Ronaldo plays. But he says he doesn't want to. I'm sorry there's nothing I can do'," she told SBS, adding that she will find "ways to compensate" ticket holders.
Ronaldo has been subjected to a backlash on social media.
"He betrayed the 60,000 audience and belittled us," a Korean who attended the game posted on Instagram. "I'm no longer a Ronaldo fan."