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Soccer Star Tastes Success Sweeter Than Chocolate

Posted May. 27, 2009 09:02,   


“I want to eat more….”

A clear-eyed boy looked as if unsatisfied with a sheet of chocolate.

His mother said, “No way.” She worked seven days a week but made just 740,000 won (584 U.S. dollars) a month.

She supported her family of five with that money, but felt sorry that she could not give her kid as much chocolate as he wanted. Her son, however, never blamed her for their poverty.

Instead, he dared to dream big. “I’ll earn a lot of money and will eat as much chocolate as I want,” he said.

○ Soccer: the boy’s lone friend

The kid was born in 1985 as the youngest son in a family with two sons and two daughters at a small port town on Madeira Island, Portugal. His family was extremely poor.

His father was an alcoholic and his brother was a drug addict. His family kept getting poorer day after day. Seeing his mother suffering, the boy pledged never to drink alcohol or use drugs.

He was introspective and rarely talked, and had few friends. He could hardly go to school due to poverty. His only friend was a soccer ball. He placed the ball under his feet, even when eating. He started playing soccer at age three, and dispelled and controlled his sadness and anger by playing the game.

The boy started his athletic career at an amateur youth club in the Madeira region at age eight. After an impressive showing, he moved to CD Nacional and then to a youth team of Sporting Lisbon, a famed pro team in Portugal at age 11.

When he joined Sporting, his teammates were indifferent to him. They made fun of him, calling him “peasant,” and ridiculed him by mimicking his dialect.

○ Joining Manchester United

His ridicule was short-lived. The boy eventually made his adult debut for Sporting Lisbon at 16. At 17, he started for the first team. His excellent physique, stellar individual skills, and strong composure for a young player helped him earn a spot on the Portuguese youth and national teams in succession. The world’s top soccer teams then began noticing his skills and performance.

On Aug. 13, 2003, he played in a friendly match versus Manchester United in England. He outfoxed United’s defense using his extraordinary feet. United players said after the match, “We needed an oxygen mask.”

A week later, United coach Sir Alex Ferguson recruited him for 12.25 million pounds (18 million U.S. dollars), the largest transfer fee for a teenager in the history of the English Premier League.

The child who could not even afford chocolate has become the world’s best player who earns 150,000 pounds (236,000 dollars) a week. He is often criticized for an excessive spirit of rivalry and scandals involving women, but has retained his affection for soccer.

He has also remained close to his family. His elder brother completed drug rehabilitation and now works as a painter.

The star’s mother and elder sisters all live well thanks to his support. Given his experience with extreme poverty and hunger, he is very generous in helping others. His mother always tells others, “Even if everything on earth changes, my son’s care for others will not.”

His father was a big fan of the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan. For this reason, he called his son Ronaldo.