It’s a rare night indeed when a Leeds United fan can summon up even a passing regard for the pouting, strutting enigma that is Cristiano Ronaldo, late of the Scum, currently vying for top-dollar merchant with Gareth Bale at the Bernebeu, Madrid. If ever there was such a night though, this is it. Ronaldo ambled through the first hour of this match and then simply seized the home team by the scruff of the neck and tore them to pieces, scoring three times. With a brace from Benzema to add to Isco’s opener, it was the Winker’s hat-trick that inflicted the most agony on the hapless Turks, thereby giving any watching Leeds fan a rare treat.
Oddly, the various TV companies that cover the Champions League seem to have a fairly benevolent attitude towards the Istanbul club, despite the notorious nature of their fans in general and of course the tragic loss suffered by Leeds United – the club and the fans – back in the spring of the year 2000. Since then, there have been other instances of crowd behaviour that would disgrace a bunch of neolithic savages, and there are of course the perpetual occurrences of throat-slitting gestures, “Welcome to Hell” banners and so on and so forth. In short, this is a club that glories in its own tastelessness and lack of civilised behaviour – and yet we’re always hearing the commentators going on about the incredible atmosphere, the amazing fans, ad nauseam. It’s enough to make your ears ache if you’re a Leeds fan, or indeed any decent-minded football fan – but there you go.
We’ll never know what the media attitude to them would have been if it had been a different United suffering on that awful night 13 years ago – but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it would have been somewhat different. As it is, the tragedy of Istanbul 2000 seems to have been conveniently swept under the carpet, and the media appear to take delight in the progress of a club that deserve nothing but ill. Still – we’re used to these double standards, and we take our comfort where we can.
Speaking of which, tonight was a delightful exhibition of Galascum getting well and truly thrashed by an awesome Madrid team. The incredible, unprecedented feeling of actually enjoying a Ronaldo hat-trick – one particularly special strike in there, too – was a novelty that will possibly not be repeated. Not unless Madrid dish this sort of treatment out again in the reverse fixture, anyway.
So for once I come not to bury Ronaldo, but to praise him; truly is it said that “mine enemy’s enemy is my friend”. I still can’t stand the sight of Mr. Ronaldo, to be strictly honest. He still has the kind of face you want to smack, still looks the sort of player that belongs with those other self-adoring prima donnas at the Theatre of Hollow Myths. But he did Leeds United, Madrid and – whatever the mealy-mouthed hypocrites in the media might think – the whole of football a service tonight. All those goals. All that humiliation for a hopelessly-outclassed Galascum. Even the late and meaningless home consolation scored to a nearly-empty stadium before Ronaldo administered the coup de grâce with the sixth. All those glum fans who had started out so cocky and full of hope. Have it.
It was just one of those nights tonight. For the past decade and more, I’ve winced every time I’ve seen that awful club with those disgusting fans getting anywhere, doing anything positive like winning a game, and hearing the British media fawning over them. Tonight it was different. Tonight, they copped for it, big time. Tonight it was a case of “Hala Madrid” – or even “Hala Ronaldo” – just for tonight. 6-1 – SIX bloody one. Well done, Real – and thank you, from a Leeds United fan.