Brazil legend Ronaldo has sent a touching open letter to compatriot Neymar urging him to “turn the hate” he receives “into fuel”.
Ronaldo, who won two World Cups with Brazil, said he was shocked by the level of “envy and evil” the Brazil star had to deal with.
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Neymar is seeking his first trophy with his country but is unlikely to return before the knockout stages of the World Cup after injuring his right ankle in their opening 2-0 win over Serbia.
Ronaldo has now jumped into the PSG star’s defence, after some fans celebrated his injury.
“Your talent, by the way, has taken you so far, that there is love and admiration for you in every corner of the world,” Ronaldo wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of Neymar.
It is also why, to reach what he has come to, and the success he has achieved, he has to deal with a lot of envy and evil. On the level of celebrating the injury of a star like you, with a story like yours. How far have we come? What world is this? What message are we conveying? to our youth?
“There will always be people rooting against you, but it is sad to see society down the path of reducing bigotry, normalizing hate speech. I am writing to you today against this verbal violence with destructive power: come back stronger! Hungry for goals!”
“The good you do on and off the field is much greater than the envy towards you. Don’t forget for a second the journey that made you a world-class footballer. Brazil loves you! … Don’t glorify cowards and envy. Celebrate the love that comes from most of your nation. Neymar will be back! And may all the hate turn into fuel.
Neymar, 30, headed to the tournament in Qatar in a stunning way. He scored 15 goals and set up another 12 in 19 appearances across all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the World Cup break.
The former Barcelona star scored 75 goals in 121 games with the Brazil national team, two goals away from Pele, Brazil’s all-time top scorer.
Ronaldo is not the only Brazilian star who has come out in defense of Neymar. His teammates Casemiro and Rafinha also publicly supported him.
Argentina fans are a treat [Lionel] Messi is like God. Portugal fans treat Cristiano Ronaldo like a king. Brazilian fans cheer for Neymar’s break.
“How sad, the biggest mistake in Neymar’s career is that he was born in Brazil, this country does not deserve his talent and football.”
Casemiro said he was appalled by the abuse Neymar received on social media.
“When you want to hurt someone, no matter who they are, it’s very dangerous,” Casemiro said. “I am so sad, especially for someone who helps so many people, and has such a big heart. Neymar doesn’t deserve this… Neymar is a great player, the star of the team, who makes the difference.”