The competitive nature of sports often triumphs in headlines and box scores, but there’s still a place for humility and class.
And Cristiano Ronaldo’s classy gestures haven’t gone unnoticed.
After scoring the late-match goal that secured a 2-1 victory over his former club on Tuesday, the Real Madrid superstar didn’t celebrate. He didn’t jump around or even appear to be all that excited about breaking a 1-1 tie and notching a victory for his club.
It wasn’t that Ronaldo didn’t care; he was simply humbled by being back at Old Trafford in front of the fans who adored him during his time with Manchester United.
After the match, the 28-year-old star apologized for knocking his former club out of the Champions League (as quoted by John Drayton of DailyMail.co.uk).
“I'm sorry for Manchester United but I've done my job, and I'm happy for the whole team.”
That last bit was a necessary display of his loyalty to Real Madrid, but he went on to say this of his 69th-minute goal:
“I did not celebrate out of respect, for the love that people gave me all those years here. Those feelings are not forgotten.”
With one more candid remark after the match, Ronaldo proved his class matches his talent.
“But anyway I helped my team to score one goal home and away. I feel happy inside because Madrid got through but on the other hand I feel a little bit sad because Manchester United deserved (to win).”
With a 1-0 advantage in the second half of play, Manchester United winger Luis Nani challenged for a loose ball with his spike extended. He caught Alvaro Arbeloa in the ribs, prompting the referee to display Nani with a red card.
The foul gave Los Blancos a one-man advantage for the remainder of the match.
It was that questionable call that turned the tide in Real Madrid’s favor.
As Ronaldo alluded to in his post-match remarks, without that call the Red Devils were well on their way to a victory at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo wasn’t one to boast or find happiness in the way his club won, but Real Madrid deserves a lot of credit for how well the club played in a tough venue against an even tougher opponent.
He deserves to at least be proud of how he handled the situation.
Manchester United took notice of their former player’s respect. After the match, the entire Red Devils squad made a classy gesture of its own (per Man United FF Twitter account):
Ryan Giggs has apparently given his 1000th match shirt to Cristiano Ronaldo after getting it signed by the entire Man Utd squad. #Respect— Man Utd FF (@ManUtdFF) March 6, 2013
When Ronaldo left Manchester United to sign with Real Madrid in 2009, respect for the superstar could have devolved into disdain—the kind of bitter criticism we see all too often when athletes choose to move on with their careers.
The fact that Ronaldo has remained respectful of his roots proves his class, but the Red Devils and their fans should be proud as well.
Instead of vilifying the former fan favorite, they returned the favor with an equally classy display of civility and respect.