Apr
25
2008
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Ronaldo – The End Of The Phenomenon

His feints and, above all, his goals have delighted millions around the world for years. As a player, he has won virtually everything there is to win but recently Brazil’s Ronaldo has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Does this spell the end of a spectacular career?
A clueless observer without the slightest affinity for football would have expected a well-heeled man to emerge from the wings. The hair is now going grey, and only the nostalgic video clips in the background hint at the fact that this man once mesmerised the world with his youthful vigour and energy. He then pays tribute to his family and reels off a few rehearsed witticisms before taking his leave to a standing ovation. That is what it is like when you receive an Oscar for a lifetime of work.
Last January, when Italy presented the football Oscars from the players’ association, Associazione Italiana Calciatori (AIC), in the Milan auditorium, a 31-year-old with a rastafarian hairdo stood smiling behind the microphone. The winner of the prize for distinguished service during a football career was Ronaldo, whose work at AC Milan was in fact still regarded as in full swing. And anyone who was secretly sneering at the ceremony was either being cynical or merely realistic.
For months now, the Brazilian has not been hitting the headlines for his tantalising stepovers but rather for his plethora of injuries. Ronaldo’s current condition is more obscure than tea leaves in a cup and more difficult to fathom out than the oracle in Delphi. Perhaps the prize will one day be declared his swangsong. Once hailed as one of the best footballers the world has ever produced (twice world champion, three times FIFA World Player of the Year and a global icon), now the object of scorn about his weight and ostentatious hairdos, it is the story of a sad disintegration into a caricature of himself, culminating in an Oscar for his life’s work. A kaleidoscope of trials and tribulations have marked the career of Il Fenomeno. “We could ask if anyone who hardly ever plays, trains only lightly and still gets injured can be classed as a professional,” reported a newspaper late last year, reflecting AC Milan’s disgruntled board.