|A Conversation with Ronaldinho
||[Mar. 27th, 2007|04:27 pm]
Ronaldinho at his home in Castelldefels, Spain, outside of Barcelona.
Jack Bell/The New York Times
Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, known to the soccer world simply as Ronaldinho, is one of the most recognizable players in the world. The Brazil star has led his club, F.C. Barcelona in Spain, to two straight La Liga titles and last season's European Champions League crown.
Jack Bell of The New York Times spent a tightly scripted 30 minutes with 27-year-old Ronaldinho at his palatial home in Castelldefels, a holiday village about a 20-minute drive outside Barcelona. The March 12 interview, conducted through a Spanish interpreter, took place two days after Ronaldinho helped 10-man Barcelona tie Real Madrid, 3-3, in a pulsating match at the team's Camp Nou Stadium.
Q: The game against Real Madrid was truly an incredible experience, at least it was for me. How important was it for you and Barcelona?
A: It was extremely important especially at this moment, when we needed some points to stay on top of the Spanish league.
Q: Did you feel there was more pressure on you and the team in light of the results of the past week? (In the week before the match, Barcelona had lost to rival Sevilla and had been eliminated from the Champions League by Liverpool of England.)
A: No, there was not more pressure. We didn't have more now than ever before, but it was an especially important moment. We had no margin to let any points go any more we can't fail right now because it is really important to hang on to the points.
Q: Barca gave up the first goal against Real Madrid, but I thought it helped to make the game more open and more exciting. How do you see it?
A: It is always complicated when you concede a goal first and you're behind. I never felt we couldn't win. I always felt we could turn it on until last minute and were even in a position where we could win, not just draw.
Q: You felt confident to the last minute?
A: To the last minute, yes, to the last minute. That is why we fought so hard. It is the way we have to keep going from now on.
Q: Is it hard to stay focused and hungry after winning two straight La Liga titles?
A: [It's] not hard to stay enthusiastic. Actually, once you have lived it once and have feeling of winning you want it even more. You want to repeat. Yes, it is difficult to keep playing up to that level, but you want to go back and have the same feeling of what was achieved before.
Q: What else is there for you to accomplish in the game?
A: Actually, my goal is to conquer again titles. In what I have achieved, I have been lucky to win a lot of most important championships. I know how magic the moment is when you win. That is why I would like to do it again, to live it again. Winning more is always my goal. To win as many trophies as is possible.
Q: So after winning the league title and the Champions League last season, you went to the World Cup with Brazil and things did not turn out well. Was the failure in Germany hard for you to deal with?
A: Yes. It was a big disappointment, especially bearing in mind that the team met all the conditions to win the title, great players, great coach, high expectations. Bearing that in mind, we have to learn from what happened and go back and win it.
Q: I have been told that you are a big fan of Michael Jordan. Is that true? And if it is, what is it about him that you find appealing?
A: Yes, I am and was a big fan. I always admired the way Michael Jordan played basketball and when I was growing up watching his games I loved the way he played. He took responsibility for the team always. I dreamed of being able to bring what I saw him doing in basketball into football and do it myself, to play soccer like he played basketball. I was able to meet him and we shook hands. It was special for me. I felt lucky to meet him in person. I might be as well known around the world, but it was still a really special moment for me. No doubt about it up to this day still a fan think every kid of my generation who follows sports has been a fan.
Q: Now like Michael Jordan, Nike has just come out with your own signature line of gear and shoes, called 10R. How much influence and advice did you give them? Do you like the stuff? It all has a real retro look, from the shoes to the leather ball.
A: I participated almost in all aspects of the project. Nike was asking me my opinion about the boots, how they should be done. My opinions were important every step of the way, especially since it's my name and signature on all the gear. I have to thank Nike because they worked to make me feel more comfortable in what I was wearing and in how the boots turned out. I hope people around the world feel as good about the boots as I do.
Q: And then there's the leather ball. Can you actually make that ball dance on free kicks as much as the balls you play with during official matches?
A: To me, the ball is no different than the officials ones we play with. When I kick the ball in my house it is no different. I play around with it with my dogs and kick around in the yard.
Q: The past few years Barcelona has toured the United States before the start of the Spanish season. I'm wondering what your impressions were of the football, the country and the people.
A: I was really surprised by all the attention and especially by all the big crowds because people have always told me that football is not popular in the U.S. But we saw a lot of people interested and very into it. Many, many people recognized me wherever I went. So I can only think that the game is getting bigger in the U.S.
Q: Last season, one of your teammates, Samuel Eto'o, nearly walked off the field in Zaragoza after being taunted by racial slurs from the fans there. How did that incident affect you?
A: It was a terrible thing that happened, yes. But after that there were lots of campaigns being done [by] people to combat racism and make people more aware that these things are not acceptable. People are little by little becoming aware, doing those things and believing those things are not the way to go. I think some very positive things came out of the incident. At least I hope so.
Q: My wife, who is a casual soccer fan, says she loves watching you play because you seem to be truly enjoying yourself. You have that big, big smile and play with such joy. Where does that come from?
A: I just think each person has [their own] personality and that I'm lucky to be doing what I like most in life - playing football. I am happy to be doing this. It is true some people have different a character, but I have a happy personality. The way I am, I hope I will keep being like this for many years.
Q: I have to ask you how you felt a few weeks ago when there were many articles written in Spain saying that you had put on weight. Have you.
A: (Laughing) … Do I look fat?