Ronaldo escapes punishment for Hong Kong no-show

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 February, 2005, 12:00am

Brazilian superstar striker Ronaldo has been spared from any punishment for missing tomorrow's Carlsberg Cup under an agreement between the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) and Europe's leading clubs, it was revealed yesterday.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid striker was expected to face the wrath of the Brazil Football Confederation (CBF) for failing to join his teammates in the 'A' international match at Hong Kong Stadium that celebrates both CBF and the Hong Kong Football Association's 90th anniversary.

Last year, the CBF dropped AC Milan forward Kaka, wingback Cafu and goalkeeper Dida from last September's World Cup qualifier against Bolivia as a punishment after the AC Milan trio were not released for the 'Peace Game' in Haiti last August. There were fears that Ronaldo might also be banished to the sidelines for future Brazil games, but according to CBF official Americo Faria Ronaldo has been exempted from any punishment under the agreement.

Ronaldo has been ordered to stay in the Spanish capital by Real Madrid, denying thousands of local fans another opportunity to watch the explosive skills of the three-time World Footballer of the Year, who last played here with the Spanish giants in the summer of 2003.

'There is no problem with Ronaldo. The problem is with Real Madrid. They have refused to release him,' said Faria, the Brazilian squad's supervisor.

'Under the agreement with Conmebol, European clubs must release at least one star player for friendlies outside of Europe.

Each European club must release all their star players for friendlies and World Cup qualifying matches in Europe, but outside Europe is another matter.

Ronaldo is under no obligation to play in Hong Kong.

'So it was agreed that [Ronaldo's Real Madrid clubmate] Roberto Carlos would make the trip here. Real Madrid could have added another star player [to Hong Kong], but they have refused to release Ronaldo because they wanted him to stay in Madrid,' he said. 'Of course we want Ronaldo to play in Hong Kong. But there's nothing we can do about it.'

The revelation meant that only Ronaldo or Roberto Carlos would have made the trip to Hong Kong under the agreement. Ronaldo, who was supposed to have celebrated his 100th international appearance tomorrow, was looking forward to playing in the SAR.

'He is also getting married on Valentine's Day so we are not sure whether that had anything to do with the fact that he can't come,' Faria added.

'I know for a fact that Ronaldo really wanted to play in Hong Kong because he loves this city and he likes playing here. It's a shame he cannot come.'

Earlier, it was reported that Ronaldo would not play in the Lunar New Year showpiece after an agreement had been reach for him to remain in the Spanish capital.

Real said that the decision was made to avoid the player making another long trip after recently returning from Brazil because of a family member's illness.

Former Brazil national coach Mario Zagallo, who is a technical adviser to the team, said the CBF only found out that Ronaldo was staying in Madrid late on Sunday night.

'His club does not want to release him, but the Brazil team will still be strong with almost everybody else playing. We have still got players like Roberto Carlos and Ronaldinho and Robinho,' said Zagallo, who is nicknamed the Professor and played a role either as a player or coach in four out of five Brazil World Cup triumphs.

The Hong Kong Football Association said yesterday that Ronaldo's absence was indeed a blow to local fans, but there was little that could be done to reverse Real Madrid's decision.

'It's a disappointment that Ronaldo cannot play in Hong Kong, but this is something that is beyond our control,' said HKFA general secretary Martin Lam.