Cristiano Ronaldo was laughed at when he played at Sporting Lisbon’s football academy as a youngster. Because he was so small, but also because of the rural accent that he had as a boy from Madeira, the island off the Portuguese coast where he was born and wherefrom he had come to the mainland for his football career. In his biography Moments, Ronaldo tells how he is laughed at when he introduces himself to his classmates on his first day of school in Lisbon: Now I can laugh about it, he says, but then I felt like a clown. Ronaldo often called his mother at the boarding school crying because he wanted to go home.
Abelhinha, Ronaldo was called: the little bee, because he always zigzagged across the field to avoid his opponents. The skinny kid with the crooked teeth grew up to be a world football player who celebrates his goals with a bullfighter pose and shows the world his torso whenever he can.
In Portugal’s first 2021-European Championship match against Hungary, he had the priviledge to take on the pose twice again. Fierce and defiant the first time, because the Portuguese superstar had been annoyed by the way the Hungarians in the Puskás stadiumhad treated him. The second bullfighter’s pose, after a sovereignly used penalty kick, was allready a bit more relaxed. Cristiano’s goal-hunger had been stilled, but only momentarily. It was his 97th goal for the Portuguese national team in 141 games.
Ronaldo’s performance before the match against Hungary was even more characteristic of his superstar status than his performance on the pitch. After taking a seat behind the table for an interview with the assembled world press, the Portuguese had glanced at two bottles of Coca Cola that have been placed in front of him. He is visibly annoyed. Then he decides to put them out of the picture. “Agua,” is his only comment. Some observers noted that Coca Cola stock took a nosedive after Ronaldo’s move, but that was probably for a different reason.
Either way, it’s nothing new that Ronaldo has the power to break a brand, alltough he builds them more often. With his extravagance, Ronaldo scores on social media. He now has more than 220 million followers on Instagram, more than anyone else in the world. According to the website BuzzBingo, he earns more than 50 million dollars from Instagram annually (more than 40 million euros).
Papa Ronaldo, JoséDinis Aveiro, was a groundskeeper for Funchal’s club l’Andorinha CF and seven-year-old Cristiano knew he made him proud when he played well. In his biography Cristiano Ronaldo, Guillem Balague tells that, according to his family, Dinis returned pale and desillusioned after serving as a soldier in the Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique. The wars of independence there lasted until the mid-1970s. Afte his war service Dinis stopped working and visited bars from early in the morning until late at night until he died of liver poisoning.
Ronaldo’s birthplace, on the slopes of the village of Funchal in Madeira, has recently been demolished because the authorities had had enough of all visitors hanging around the slum in Quinta de Falcoa. His sister Katia posted a picture of it. She commented: ‘A rat came gnawing at my face, luckily my mother got there in time, otherwise I would have been even uglier than I already am.’
In Quinta do Falcao there is actually no suitable place to play football, writes Guillem Balague in his biography. Playing football in the steep streets is the only option. If the insecurity of his early years has awakened a raging ambition and urge to assert himself in Cristiano, then he is certainly not the only footballer to whom this has happened.
As a little boy, he runs up the steep slopes of Madeira, carrying weights around his ankles, while neighbors look on scornfully. Even after he made the switch to Sporting Lisbon, he often continues to carry the weights during training sessions, without telling his teammates. Together with his friend José Semedo, he sneaks into the gyms of the club at night. They want to become big muscled dudes. Just like their example, the French player Desailly.
During the time he played at Sporting, Ronaldo also stood next to cars that had stopped at a red traffic light. He tried to keep up with them when the cars accelerated, Miguel Paixao, a player he was friends with at the time, told the Portuguese newspaper Publico.
In addition to the regular training sessions at his clubs, he still trains for three hours every day on his own. In the documentary CR7 you can see how Cristiano takes care of his son. He puts him to bed and takes him to school. And he plays games with him: Which of the seven cars is missing from his father’s garage? The Ferrari? No. The Rolls? No. The Lamborgini? Yes that is the right answer. ‘ He is huge,” his son says comments he sees a two-meter-tall basketball player walk past them. ‘Yes’, Ronaldo says. ‘But Daddy is stronger.’
Ronaldo has African roots. His father’s great-grandmother was born in Cape Verde. Perhaps the African genes are the basis of his explosiveness, speed and jumping power. He can head balls that come in from a height of more than 2.5 meters. Against Wales in the quarter-finals of the 2016 European Championship (2.61 meters) for instance. And last season in a match that Juventus win 2-1 against Sampdoria (2.56 meters). In a match between Real Madrid and Manchester United, it is said he reached a height of 2.93 meters.