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Ronaldo scores to keep Juventus perfect amid rape allegation turmoil

Cristiano Ronaldo shrugged off damaging rape allegations to score for Juventus as the Serie A champions beat Udinese 2-0 under the rain in northeastern Italy on Saturday to stretch their lead at the top of Serie A.

Ronaldo scores to keep Juventus perfect amid rape allegation turmoil
Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Udinese Calcio on Saturday. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
The Portuguese striker lashed in the second goal after 37 minutes from the left following a cross from Croatia's Mario Mandzukic, four minutes after Rodrigo Bentancur's opener.
 
It was Ronaldo's fourth goal this season for Juventus, with the 33-year-old celebrating wildly with his teammates, as the Italian champions claimed their tenth consecutive win in all competitions.
 
Ronaldo remained tight-lipped after the game, giving a thumbs up as he left the dressing room where he was greeted by fans shouting “Cristiano! Cristiano!”
 
The superstar showed no sign of the immense pressure he is under amid damaging accusations which threaten his multi-million euro sporting empire. US police on Monday re-opened an investigation into claims by former American model Kathryn Mayorga that the five-time Ballon d'Or winner raped her in a Las Vegas hotel in June 2009.
 
“I don't know how things are for him at home, I don't live with him,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. “What I know is what I see on the pitch. He trains hard, he is serene and today he scored an extraordinary goal.”
 
Juventus — with a maximum 24 points from eight Serie A games — open up a nine-point lead on second-placed Napoli who host Sassuolo on Sunday.
 
'Stronger than the mud'
 
With the eyes on the world on Ronaldo the match against lowly Udinese, in a small town not far from the border with Slovenia, attracted journalists from as far afield as China.
 
But the 'Ronaldo affair' appeared to have in no way dented the player's popularity among the fans who packed the 25,000-seater Stadio Friuli. He was greeted by the enthusiastic cries of dozens of children waiting for the team buses before the game, with one child running onto the pitch during warm-up to ask for his autograph.
 
“Stronger than the mud,” headlined Turin daily Tuttosport, a traditional backer of Juventus, above a photograph of Ronaldo dining with the team this week, and a bigger picture of the star smiling.
 
“CRSexe,” was the front-page headline on Rome-based Corriere dello Sport on Saturday, referring to the allegations. Another headline said “World of Juve shaken” after the club's share price plunged almost 10 percent on Friday. 
 
The back page was dominated by an advert for Ronaldo's line of underwear, featuring a full-page photograph of the player bare-chested.
 
Ronaldo has hired David Chesnoff, known as the lawyer of the stars, to defend him. The Las Vegas-based criminal lawyer has already worked with well-known athletes like Shaquille O'Neal, Mike Tyson and Andre Agassi.
 
After initially dismissing the rape claims as “fake news” on Instagram, Ronaldo took to social media during the week to “firmly deny” the accusations.
 
“Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in,” he said on his Twitter feed, which has 75 million followers.
 
Sponsors concerned
 
However, there have been off-field consequences to the controversy. Just two weeks ago, shares in Juventus rose 180 percent to a record level of over 1.80 euros. On Friday, they closed down 9.92 percent at 1.19 euros on the Milan stock exchange.
 
Nike has said it is “deeply concerned” by the allegations against one of their marquee athletes whose relationship with the US sportswear giant is rumoured to be worth $1 billion (€869 million).
 
EA Sports, for whom Ronaldo is a leading figure in their phenomenally successful FIFA video game market, also described the allegations as “concerning”.
 
Juventus have so far stood behind the player who moved to Turin in the summer in a €100 million ($115 million) deal from Real Madrid. However, the Italian club's reaction to the issue has angered some fans as “dismissive” and “insensitive”.
 
Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici, nevertheless, underlined the club's support on Saturday.
 
“We have already made clear our total support for the player, who has always been very active on social issues and been a great professional beyond reproach, as confirmed by his teammates,” Paratici told Sky Sport Italia. “We are behind him all the way. He has been an exemplary professional and an exemplary person throughout his career.”
 
Before Saturday's game Ronaldo had received encouragement from his mother.
 
“Best wishes son for you and your team, because together we are stronger. Go Juventus,” wrote Maria Dolores Alveiro on Instagram, alongside a photo of Ronaldo embracing her.
 
By AFP's Stanislas Touchot
 

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Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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