During the Group H finale of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 between South Korea and Portugal on Saturday, Korean time, Korean fans at the stadium started shouting “Messi! Messi!” when the Portuguese team’s captain Cristiano Ronaldo got the ball.
The support seemed random, as the Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi was not on the field of the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar: his team was not even in the same group and had clinched its spot in the top 16 two days earlier.
The chant was to display some Korean fans’ disdain toward Ronaldo by shouting the name of the Portuguese superstar’s biggest rival. It is unclear how much effect the mocking had on Ronaldo, but South Korea managed a 2-1 upset over the heavily-favored Portugal squad to secure its place in the knockout stage.
The history of bad blood between the South Korean fans and Ronaldo dates back to the controversial “no-show” incident in 2019, when Ronaldo did not compete in the exhibition game between Italy’s Juventus -- for whom he played at the time -- and South Korea’s K-League All Star team. This sparked furor among soccer fans here as it was advertised that Ronaldo would play for at least 45 minutes, causing the sellout crowd to boo the star and chant his rival Lionel Messi’s name in protest.
Three years passed, but the chants indicated that the Koreans’ ill feelings had not been resolved yet.
When the 37-year-old star was substituted 65 minutes into the match, a Korean fan wrote “Why is Ronaldo leaving the field when he is our (Korean) defender?” apparently mocking his less-than-impressive performance during the match.