Even though Portugal were held to a goalless draw by Ireland in their World Cup qualifier, Cristiano Ronaldo won hearts. The Portuguese gave away his jersey to a little girl who had run onto the pitch to hug him after the match.
The fan, wearing an Ireland jersey, evaded security and ran onto the pitch towards Ronaldo to hug him.
Ronaldo saw the young girl and as she was about to be taken her away by the security at the ground, hugged her and gave her his shirt.
The young girl’s actions could lead to a hefty penalty of around £2,500 but the Whelan Football Association of Ireland (FAI) released a statement that the 11-year-old, who was identified as Addison, will have no action taken against her.
“We want to reassure Addison that of course she will not face any fine for running onto the pitch and asking for Ronaldo’s jersey,” said Cathal Dervan, the FAI’s Media & Football Relations Director. However, the association urged fans to refrain from future encroachments.
“I jumped over the barrier because I was in the second row. I jumped over the first row and over the barrier,” the young girl told RTE Radio 1. Describing the thrilling moment, she added how the security personnel chased her and how Ronaldo asked them to leave her.
“So then I was calling him over. He came over to me. I was just in shock and crying and I was like ‘can I have your jersey? Please, please. I’m a big, huge fan’.”
Later, she was quoted as saying by the Independent that it was her “dream came true” and the report added that she also got tickets to watch Arsenal play at the Emirates Stadium.
As for the match, the draw leaves Portugal ahead of Serbia on goal difference ahead of their decisive match on Sunday in Portugal.
Both teams are tied on 17 points but Portugal has scored three more goals than the Serbians.
Only the group winners automatically qualify for next year’s tournament in Qatar, while the second-place finishers will have to go through a playoff with the other runners-up and two group winners from the UEFA Nations League.
Portugal played a man down from the 82nd after veteran defender Pepe was shown a second yellow card that will keep him from playing against Serbia.
At age 38, Pepe became the oldest player to start for Portugal, surpassing former goalkeeper Vítor Damas by 13 days. It was his 123rd appearance, the fourth-most for the Portuguese national team.
Cristiano Ronaldo had a few good chances for the visitors but couldn’t capitalize on them.
“We didn’t have many chances but could’ve scored with the ones we created,” Portugal midfielder João Moutinho said. “We didn’t get the victory but we reached our goal of being in first place, which is what we wanted.”
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