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Explained | The Rasmus Hojlund-San Marino controversy

Manchester United’s Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund has stoked controversy after Denmark’s UEFA Euro Qualifier match against San Marino.

In the aftermath of the game, the 20-year-old accused his opponents of trying to deliberately injure him and “destroy his career”, to which San Marino defender Roberto Di Maio—with whom Hojlund butted heads quite a few times during the game—responded saying it was ‘disappointing’.

The game ended in a 2-1 win for the Danes with Hojlund opening the books, and San Marino’s Alessandro Golinucci equalizing in the 61st minute. Yusuuf Poulsen gave Denmark the edge with a 70th-minute goal. It was a special moment for San Marino as well, as they managed their first goal in a competitive game in two years.

San Marino is a microstate surrounded by north-central Italy and is the fifth smallest country in the world.

After the match, the 20-year-old said “The last duel had nothing to do with football”, adding, “I think it is disrespectful that they hit and tear,” as per Goal.

Hojlund further said “I can’t say much other than that I think they are the ones who started, and then the game just went on. They took it to the next level because they have nothing to lose. They thought: ‘Well, fine enough, we might as well try to destroy the career’.”

Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano reported Hojlund saying, “I feel they targeted me, as you can see at the end. I understand Italian and I could hear them saying that they had the idea to crush me. You can see from the images that he only had one idea in mind.”

Hojlund was left especially furious after an 88th-minute tackle, where Di Maio kneed the United striker from the back without trying to play the ball at all.

Di Maio responded to Hojlund’s allegations on social media calling him a “disappointment” who wouldn’t have survived the game as it used to be played.

Manchester Evening News reported him saying, “Today I read that Mr 80 million is complaining because yesterday he received less than great treatment from the defenders of San Marino.”

He added, “Well, dear, probably in football like today, where physical contact has disappeared, you can allow yourself to make fun of us little opponents with ugly and repeated gestures or to simulate at every opportunity, hoping for the VAR for a penalty,” continuing “I would have liked to see you 15 years ago when only real men played football! You were a disappointment, Hojlund. Good luck.”

Fellow defender Alessandro Tosi was the first to have responded to Hojlund’s claims calling them “not true”.

“We only told him that he was not behaving properly. What he did was not necessary. He is a very strong striker, but he was not fair at all”, Football365 reported him saying, adding “I haven’t lost respect for him completely, but we expected better behaviour. His behaviour when celebrating was unacceptable.”

“Hojlund plays in a league against defenders who are far more skilled, physical and tougher than us, so he should be used to these kinds of duels”, Tosi concluded.

The game left Denmark skipper Simon Kjaer fuming as well, who reportedly said to the referee “do you want me to translate now?”. After the match, he backed his players, saying “We also have VAR. You can see all the way down from behind that he is doing it 100 percent deliberately.”

(Published 19 October 2023, 11:14 IST)

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