Ronaldo: Grass, Grace and Grief
By Tunde Odesola,
Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t born in a manger to a carpenter father and a virgin mother. His father was a soldier who fought in Angola for imperialist Portugal in the 1970s while his mother was a cleaner and cook.
Ronaldo’s father, José Dinis Aveiro, a drunkard, died in 2005 from liver failure. His mother, Dolores Aveiro, recounts in her book, Mother Courage, how she wanted to abort foetus Ronaldo as a result of poverty and her husband’s struggle with alcohol.
She says, “He was drunk almost every day. I never really knew him well. I would have liked him to have been around more. Although he never mistreated his children, I became his victim.”
The seed planted by José in the fertile soil of Dolores sometime in 1984, germinated and came to fruition on February 5, 1985, in the Sao Pedro parish of Funchal, Portugal, and a superstar was born.
Probably aware of the link between a child’s name and its destiny, and despite the family’s struggles, the couple was bent on giving its fourth and last child powerful names to reflect the kind of future it wished for the newborn.
So, at christening, father and mother gave their bundle of joy a couple of names. In line with Portuguese tradition, two of the names, Cristiano and Ronaldo, became his most known names, outshining the family name, Aveiro. Cristiano means ‘a follower of Christ’ and the name Ronaldo was inspired by the charisma of ex-Hollywood actor and two-term US president of the 80s, Ronald Reagan.
Ronaldo’s path to immortality wasn’t without thorns and cliffs. At 15, he was diagnosed with tachycardia, a serious medical condition that makes the heart beat more than 100 times per minute whereas the normal heartbeat for a teenager or an adult is between 60-100. He underwent a surgery to correct the defect.
At 17, fate came knocking when he joined Sporting Lisbon FC, fame shone on him when he was invited to the Portuguese national team at 18, and fortune smiled at him when he joined Manchester United before he turned 19.
Sports and politics. The Chairman, Agege Sports Club, Mr Stanley Adiele, called me a few days ago, and accused me of being silent on happenings in the Nigerian political space. Adiele, my bosom friend, an advertising practitioner, is also a proud and committed Obidient – the nickname of Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, supporters.
I debunked Adiele’s accusation and challenged him to name a Nigerian columnist who had been more critical of the Peoples Democratic Party and its members, the All Progressives Congress, President Muhammadu Buhari and his wife, Aisha; Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his wife, Remi; together with their children, in equal measure, than me.
I called the attention of Adiele to my article, “Buhari: Yoruba can go to blazes,” published in THE PUNCH, on September 26, 2022. In the article, I wrote inter alia, “I’ll reiterate for the umpteenth time that none among the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, Atiku and Obi is seeking office to genuinely develop Nigeria; all are seeking office for the power, perks and paraphernalia therein.
“I say this because each of the presidential candidates knows that no development can emanate from the continued use of the pro-North 1999 Constitution, which supports the current madness ailing our dear country. But none of them has said the obvious nor explained how to bring about the desired constitutional amendment alias restructuring.
“Conducting the 2023 elections without restructuring, and expecting a change in the fortunes of the country is like fetching water with a basket or heading up North from Abuja and expecting to land in Calabar.”
I reiterated to my friend that I took a ‘siddon-look’ posture because I don’t believe the 2023 presidential election would bring the desired change Nigeria needed – no matter who became President. For me, criticising a process you have no faith in is tantamount to Tinubu’s ‘bala blu…hu…blu bula ba’ meaningless incantation. Electioneering by the various political parties ahead of the 2023 elections has been very depressing to me.
Adiele condemned Tinubu and Atiku as powers and principalities holding the country down. I agreed but I referred him to the telling verdict of Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, who hinted recently that the classified records available to him as governor shows that the spangled banner Peter Obi allegedly held over Anambra during an eight-year tenure was but a perforated rag.
Is Atiku Abubakar better? No. His public service records and the testimony of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who ran a joint presidential ticket with him, attest to the contrary. Is Tinubu the messiah? Yes! If Nigeria wants to extend the corrupt Buhari era by another four years and perish the country under the rubble of debt.
Ronaldo is like Tinubu, he doesn’t know to leave the playground when it’s getting dark. His soul is willing but the body is weak. After a glittering nine-year club career at Real Madrid, scoring a club record 451 goals in 438 appearances, Ronaldo was shown the door four years ago, and he lamented, “The president looked at me in a way that suggested I was no longer indispensable, if you know what I mean. That was what made me think about leaving.” Without emotional farewell, Ronaldo stormed out of Bernabeu en route to Bianconeri.
After three seasons, Ronaldo failed to deliver Champions League glory for which his new team, Juventus, hired him even as the Italian giants failed to win the scudetto in his final season with the club after two consecutive wins. In his characteristic manner, Ronaldo stormed out of Italy without saying goodbye.
After his exit, Juve coach, Max Allegri, said, “I think that personal targets have been put aside and there is more focus on the team. We have been together for six or seven months now. We are knowing each other a little more, we feel more like a team.” But Ronaldo’s former teammate at Manchester United, Patrice Evra told Daily Post, “Allegri’s words also had a role in Ronaldo’s exit. He (Allegri) said, ‘Ronaldo won’t play all games’.”
From Turin in Italy, Ronaldo ran back to Manchester in England, where he rejoined the teenage team that propelled him to greatness, Manchester United, in August 2021. However, the homecoming was short lived as he couldn’t relive the legend he created in the club between 2003 and 2009.
Unheeding the dictates of his body to begin rehearsals for his final dance, Ronaldo felt he would rediscover his form at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, leading Portugal to the tournament. But Portuguese coach, Fernando Santos, saw what Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United saw – an emperor struggling to save his empire from imminent collapse.
For sure, everyone shall get old and quit the stage at the fullness of time. So, what should’ve Ronaldo done differently? He shouldn’t have been selfish, arrogant, bad-tempered and inconsiderate as he has largely been all through his glittering career. His attempt to claim Bruno Fernandez’s goal against Uruguay in Qatar, despite video evidence, shows him as greedy, selfish, ill-mannered and divisive just as he scored only one goal before Portugal crashed in the quarterfinals.
Always living in awe of Argentine football magician, Messi, but never publicly admitting it, BBC quoted Ronaldo as saying, “Messi’s in the history of football – but I think I have to have six or seven or eight to be above him.” This was when both players had five ballons d’or apiece.
A journalist buddy in Osun and an ardent fan of Ronaldo, Olatunji Idowu, who works with the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, Osogbo, sent me a text on Friday, it reads, “Tunde, you know what, I used to be a fan of Ronaldo when debating about who is the GOAT between him and Messi, but having watched the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, I’ve come to realise that I was living in fool’s paradise. Messi is, indeed, the GOAT!”
By the time Argentina battles France in the final on Sunday, Messi would cement his name as the Greatest of All Time.
(Published in The PUNCH, on Monday, December 19, 2022).
Facebook: @tunde odesola