Tennis ace Rafael Nadal has defended his decision to cheer for Atletico Madrid during the La Liga giants' Europa League semi-final second leg win over Arsenal at Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday, May 3.
Nadal, a long-time Real Madrid fan, created a storm when he was spotted by television cameras wearing Atletico's scarf during the high-anticipated continental clash. Diego Simeone's men won the second leg 1-0 against the Gunners and progressed to the final as the tennis legend watched on from the stands.
Even as he made headlines, Spanish football fans slammed the 16-time-Grand Slam champion for switching allegiances. One of them even called Nadal "the ultimate snake" and opined Roger Federer would have never done something similar.
Nadal slammed the media, saying they tend to "explore stupid things" and made it clear he would not hate a team in order to be a "true supporter" of one team.
Have a lot friends from Atletico: Nadal
"I just support Real Madrid. I have a lot of friends that are from Atletico. They are playing in a competition in Europe against an English team. I just went there to support Atletico Madrid. They invited me. I just wanted to enjoy the day, to see a great football match," Nadal told the media ahead of his Madrid Open campaign, as quoted by ESPN.
He added: "Well, there is a problem with today's society, that to be a true supporter of one team, it seems that you have to be anti another team."
"The [club's] president gave me a T-shirt as a gift. At night it was a little bit chilly, a little bit cold, and I just used it as a scarf. That's all. But it's always the same stuff. "Maybe there's too much hypocrisy, or I would say you people in the media have to write too many things, so you have to explore some stupid things."
Nadal had also attended the second El Clasico of the season at Camp Nou on Sunday. Barcelona and Real played out a 2-2 draw at the end of the match, in which some questionable calls were reportedly made by referees.
The world number one tennis star though opted to steer clear of another controversy, saying he was not going to comment on referring and that he had enjoyed the match thoroughly.
"I don't have to talk about football referees. The poor referee will have a lot on his back because you have been speaking about them for hours and hours. I'm not going to contribute to that show," Nadal said.
"I think it was a great football match, nice to see. I really enjoyed the football."
Meanwhile, Nadal, who has already won two titles on the red dirt this season, is gearing up for his title defense at Madrid Open. Having received a first-round bye, the southpaw will face Gael Monfils of France in the Round of 32 on Wednesday, May 9.