Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar has defended his theatrics he displayed during the World Cup in Russia while hitting back at his critics that they “will never understand”.
Criticism of Neymar was widespread, leading to memes of the player dominating social media sites and a TV advert poking fun at the Brazilian being broadcast in South Africa.
Neymar has taken the mockery in his stride but made it clear the treatment he receives is no laughing matter.
“Do you think I want to suffer tackles all of the time? No, it is painful, it hurts,” he said.
“After the games I stay back for four or five hours putting on ice, it’s complicated but if you haven’t experienced that you will never understand. I saw [the jokes], but I took them with a humour.
“Even yesterday I posted on Instagram a joke with the children about it. My football is to dribble, to face the opponent, I can’t stand in front of the opponent and say ‘my dear, excuse me I want to score a goal’, I can’t do that.
“I have to dribble past him, I have to try to do something and he will not allow me to go past and he will try to foul me. A lot of time I’m faster and lighter than other players and they tackle me, and the referee is there for that.”