The hype ahead of Wednesday’s Confederations Cup semifinal between European champion Portugal and South American champion Chile was all about Arturo Vidal insulting Cristiano Ronaldo, sparking headlines and social media memes. Turns out, Vidal was the victim of bad translation.
Widely quoted in the English-language press was Vidal saying -- under headlines about him “blasting” the Portuguese star -- “Cristiano Ronaldo is a smart ass … he doesn't exist to me.”
The press in Germany, where Vidal players for Bayern Munich, had Vidal calling Ronaldo a “Schlaumeier” (wiseguy, clever dick).
Some of the Spanish press said Vidal called Ronaldo an "engreido" (big head). For the French it was “tête à claques” (pain in the neck). The Italian media reported that Vidal called Ronaldo conceited.
Of course, the folks on Twitter went at it, mocking Vidal in various ways.
If it seems rather peculiar that a seasoned veteran would take to disparaging an opponent before a big game. Indeed, there’s more to the story.
The Chilean media reported that Vidal had actually said, “Jugaremos contra un equipo, no contra Cristiano Ronaldo ... el cuco no existe.” (“We are playing against a team, not against Cristiano Ronaldo … the bogeyman does not exist.”)
Chile's press secretary Maria Jose Vasconcelos told ESPNFC’s Tom Marshall that Vidal had been asked if he was afraid of the “cuco.” That is, was he afraid of the bogeyman, Ronaldo.
The confusion came with the word cuco. In Latin America, cuco, or coco, means bogeyman, something to fear. In European Spanish, the world can also mean crafty or sly, like a thief.
So the last part of the statement is what got picked up, “Cristiano Ronaldo … the cuco does not exist.”
And some translated cuco as smartass, or made other various interpretations.
A Vidal quote that didn’t go viral from the same mixed zone — the post-game interview area, after Chile’s tie with Australia — was “Ronaldo is in the very best form, but there’s more to [Portugal] than him.”
If Chile beats Portugal on Wednesday, it will face the winner of Thursday’s Mexico-Germany semifinal.
And it’s not that Vidal isn’t confident. He also said, “I told my Munich teammate Joshua Kimmich that I’ll see him in the final.”