In 2005,international soccer star Ronaldinho was living large. In that year, Ronaldinho won his second consecutive FIFA World Player of the Year Award. Prior to those individual successes, Ronaldinho had led Brazil to a World Cup win in 2002.
Since 2005, however, Ronaldinho’s career has been on a downward spiral. In 2006, Ronaldinho and the Brazilians disappointed their fans by only reaching the quarterfinals of the World Cup. To add insult to injury, Ronaldinho was not even invited to the team when the World Cup was last held in South Africa in 2010.
Despite set-backs over the years, Ronaldinho still believes he is one the premiere soccer talents at 33 years of age. To prove his worth, Ronaldinho hoped to make his way back to the Brazilian World Cup team by leading his club team, Atletico Mineiro, to a Club World Cup tournament victory, thus cementing his worth and value to the Brazilian World Cup team.
When the 63rd minute of the match between Atletico Mineiro and Raja Casablanca, a Moroccan club team, rolled around, Ronaldinho looked as if he was going to have a compelling case to make the cut for the 2014 Brazil World Cup team. After falling behind Raja 1-0 following an early goal, Ronaldinho was awarded a free kick just after the one hour mark. And in one brief swing of the leg, Ronaldinho reminded the world why he was once considered the best soccer player, period:
However, the lone goal from Ronaldinho would not be enough to seal a victory for Atletico, with Raja scoring twice following the 84th minute, sending Atletico to the 3rd place game.
While Ronaldinho was disappointed with his and his team’s performance, stating, “Of course I’m dejected. The expectations were huge, it’s been a marvelous year and we have gone down in the club’s history. This is tough, we’ll have to see what’s left for us,” there was still reason for Ronaldinho and his fans to rejoice.
Following the end of the contest, players from Raja Casablanca approached Ronaldinho and paid him their respects. Ronaldinho went through the soccer custom of exchanging his jersey with the opposing team, but then the ritual went one step further. Deciding that his jersey alone was not enough, players from Raja stripped Ronaldinho of his cleats and left the stadium hoisting them above their heads:
The reaction was one of professional soccer players displaying respect for a premiere athlete in their profession, and also one of fans capturing souvenirs from one of their childhood heros. While Ronaldinho’s reputation may have been marred from excessive partying and lackluster performances in the latter half of his career, it is evident from the reactions of fans and soccer players alike that his name will be forever cemented as one of soccer’s greatest of all time. a reputation which gives Ronaldinho hope that he will still make the Brazilian team: “I have not given up on the Brazil squad but I honestly don’t make plans, I live in the present.”
Image via Twitter