Sun, Oct 06, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Ronaldo urges US officials to pardon fan arrested for hug

Reuters, MIAMI

Fan Ronald Gjoka, front, hugs Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo after storming the pitch during Real’s International Champions Cup final against Chelsea in Miami, Florida, on Aug. 7.

Photo: Reuters

Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is appealing to Florida officials to drop charges against an over-enthusiastic fan who was arrested during a match after rushing the field to embrace him.

Ronaldo — one of the world’s highest-paid athletes — handled the incident calmly during a match in Miami in August, chatting with the 19-year-old fan and telling security officials to take it easy on him before he was carted away.

The Portuguese star is asking prosecutors to drop charges against Ronald Gjoka, a Canadian student facing two counts of disorderly conduct and trespassing as a result of the incident in front of 70,000 fans during an International Champions Cup match in Miami between Real and Chelsea.

“I was playing at Sun Life Stadium last month when a fan entered the field,” Ronaldo wrote in a hand-signed letter sent to the prosecutor and first reported by the Miami Herald.

“We hugged, and we spoke for a while, until security arrived to escort him off the field. He was not aggressive or violent in ANY way,” he said, adding that Gjoka could face immigration problems if the charges are not dismissed.

“I understand your position and the importance of enforcing rules and laws. However, I respectfully request that you and your office reconsider this decision and dismiss the two criminal charges this young man faces,” he added.

Gjoka spent a night and most of the next day in jail for the hug.

The letter was sent from Ronaldo’s attorneys in Portugal after Gjoka’s attorney, Richard Hujber, contacted after the incident.

Gjoka is a big Ronaldo fan and was wearing a No. 7 Ronaldo shirt when he ran onto the field.

“He told him that he was raised without a father and looked up to him almost as a mentor,” Hujber said. “He struck a chord. For a moment they bonded.”

The crowd sensed that Ronaldo was not perturbed by the incident and cheered during the hug, which lasted almost a minute.

“Although Mr Ronaldo’s letter is very nice, it probably has no bearing on the case because it is Sun Life Stadium that is the victim in this case and they are the entity pressing charges,” said Terry Gonzalez-Chavez, a spokeswoman for the state attorney’s Miami office.

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