Wherever the Goat goes, sheep will follow

All over the world, marketing managers know that Ronaldo sells tickets. Football fans all over the world are like sheep, blindly following these marketing ploys and lapping up tickets in the hope that they can see a modern-day hero. Fear of Missing Out ensures that the modern internet-savvy supporter will find a way to see Ronaldo, the Greatest of All Time, in the modern era.

The last time that the Republic of Ireland played against Portugal was two months ago and Covid19 restrictions ensured that only the die-hard travelling Irish fans managed to sneak into the country as “business travellers” or by claiming to live in Portugal. The rest of the stadium was sold out to the adoring fans waiting to see Ronaldo.

Those thousands of fans got to see an Irish side, valiantly holding off a Portuguese team, whilst both sets of fans watched on seemingly awaiting Ronaldo to “turn up and play”. He was expected to break the international scoring record that night and it seemed an eternity to both sets of fans before he finally scored and broke the record …. and with it, Irish hearts. Two very late goals saw Ronaldo enter the record books as highest international scorer ever, thus cementing his nomenclature as G.O.A.T. So late in the match, it seemed a very unfair result to the Republic of Ireland and those travelling Irish fans alike. But the sheep went home happy that night. They had seen him break the record.

A lot can change in two months, and now those football fans, starved of live football are flocking to the Aviva Stadium like lambs to the slaughter.

The hype before this match saw a clamour unseen for a generation as these sheep-like fans eagerly snapped up €40 “away fan tickets” from online sales being made by Portuguese fans. They were listed on secondary sites at up to €200 each, five times face value, but F.O.M.O meant that the sheep satiated their desires, and the Aviva Stadium rang out to the sound of a new generation of fans. A Covid-restricted set of next generation fans were not going to miss out this opportunity.

 A packed house of baying fans braved the cold Dublin air just to see Ronaldo. They’ve paid between €40 and €200 to get the chance to see The G.O.A.T. In years to come they will tell their children and grandchildren that they were there when Ronaldo played in Dublin.

Bookmakers were offering bets of Republic of Ireland vs Cristiano Ronaldo. Punters could bet that Ronaldo alone, could beat the Republic of Ireland team. Astonishing, given the fact that Ireland had held back Portugal for almost 90 minutes in Portugal (before those two late goals) it seemed ludicrous to offer the bet at all. Paddy Powers certainly know how to create free advertising.

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Ireland played extremely well here in Dublin, playing with a purpose of a team with nothing to lose. That loss was already hammered home and they were now playing for pride. A pride in wearing the national shirt, a pride in knowing that the fans were on their side, understanding already that qualification for 2022 World Cup had already passed.

Despite this knowledge, Ireland pushed quickly, pressed hard and yet they could not break the deadlock. Portugal was reduced to ten men when Pepe was sent off for a second bookable offence and still Ireland couldn’t press home the advantage and score.

Ronaldo did come close to being the G.O.A.T for Portugal on 67 minutes with a glancing header that just went wide. Ireland was hanging on to another last-minute defeat. Ronaldo was trying, yet again to break our hearts, but it was not to be. The match ended in a 0-0 draw and it seemed that Portugal were happy enough with the point. The packed stadium had not witnessed a “classic” to boast about. Neither had they witnessed the G.O.A.T  score a goal.

One Irish player was delighted to keep a clean sheet. Gavin Bazuna was happy that Ronaldo had not managed to score in the Aviva.  The teenager in Irelands goal is already becoming un-droppable and looks likely to feature strongly in future campaigns. Before, during and after the match the fans were singing his name, not Ronaldo’s. He’d asked for Ronaldo’s shirt during the match and was most probably going to get it at full time, a reminder of when he played the GOAT and kept a clean sheet.

Unfortunately, a young girl by the name of Addison Whelan had other ideas. Her da’ had asked a steward if he could run onto the pitch to meet his hero? Obviously, he was refused the request. A teenager had already invaded the pitch in the first half and the steward was hardly likely to let another fan get onto the pitch.

This footballing father had other ideas, and so when the final whistle blew, he popped his football-playing daughter over the barrier. Without a backward glance she sped across the pitch heading towards Ronaldo.

Ronaldo, ever alert, spotted the bespectacled youngster heading his way. Now, finally, Ronaldo could get his headline in tomorrow’s newspapers. Promptly taking off his shirt, he gave the young Addison Whelan a huge hug in front of the live cameras, before handing over his sweat-soaked shirt.

Beaming with delight she hugged the shirt whilst being led back to her father. A quick-thinking photographer ensured that she would unwrap the shirt to pose with her doting father pitch side for the worlds press. The G.O.A.T had made her day. The GOAT was all over the news for the next three days, not for scoring, but for his kindness. I was there to see it.

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