Hang in there! - Plataforma Media

Hang in there!

João Melo

Maybe few people remember but I do: until some twenty years ago the Portuguese national team was “humble” and winless.

After decades of sporadic participation in major international competitions, since the European Championships in 2000 we have not missed a single European or World Cup appearance. In 2004, Scolari dared to mobilize the country to support the National Team. There were intense moments, crowned with the disappointment of the final defeat, but the movement took root, we became more attached to the National Team than we had rarely been in the past. We realized that in this sport we had the talent and capacity to always be present on the same stages as the most powerful nations in the world, to win one or another, to go far.

Do you understand now how a Brazilian who has won five World Cups feels? If it were us, we wouldn’t talk about anything else, just like they do. The difference is that although they only play 11, Brazil has 21 times more population. But Portugal was lucky enough to produce and around 2003/4 present to the world the first soccer robot-man.

Back then I used to play a video game called Championship Manager that simulates the management of a soccer team. The players are real, evaluated under a roster of physical and psychological attributes; it is perhaps the world’s largest database of soccer players. Just as in nature there is no aptitude for everything at the same time, energy is not elastic, the greater the investment in one specialty, the less in another; the cheetah breaks speed records but only for a short time, it lacks stamina, the human species has invested almost everything in a brain, without tools in the middle of the jungle it is ridiculously vulnerable. Because at the beginning of his career, still without having fully developed his skills, Ronaldo had fantastic evaluations in this game, able to show 20 values in speed, 20 in stamina, as well as other high numbers in opposite parameters.

He had everything, ball control, head game, passing precision, shooting power with any leg, and this being tall, a quality in general that in soccer usually hinders speed and skill. Calm down, so far I have only mentioned physical data because perhaps the most impressive thing about this “machine” is the spirit that drives it. Armed with this data from the game, from what I saw live, and even before the spirit was evident, I tried to explain to friends why he was unique: if it were possible to draw on a computer the perfect player, with the most desirable characteristics for a coach, the result would be Ronaldo.

Today looking back I see that, whether by willpower, scientific contribution, or both, he was aware of these proto-robotic characteristics and spent the following years perfecting them to the point of excellence, managing that inelastic energy with fine intelligence. It may already be his, maybe it is a result of his education, the lack of resources in childhood, the need to be the “man of the house” very early on, I don’t know; I would say that the DNA gave him a hand, but what he achieved is a reward for the will to shape and mold destiny, the obsessive effort to follow a unique path, not to be at the mercy of anything or anyone, to take control of the future.

Millions of young people without resources have only soccer to affirm themselves, and few get out of vulgarity. For Ronaldo, soccer was the area that destiny offered on a platter to apply his entrepreneurial spirit; he grabbed the opportunity tooth and nail, invented himself and invented new paradigms, let’s see: what is his model? Well, there isn’t, he created a new one, his own. Ronaldo has no tattoos and it is said, or has been said, that the reason is because he is a blood donor. I don’t know if this explanation has any connection, I believe it has a different reason.

Most footballers have tattoos, Ronaldo doesn’t have any; by separating himself from the herd he is saying “I am not like the others”. I’m not saying that he won’t do them when he retires, I’m saying that so far this attitude converges with the others to the same principle: respect for the temple, the body that gave him everything he asked for.

That is why in certain goal celebrations he praised some of its parts, pointing to the head, a leg, a foot… However much he falls into ego traps and lives surrounded by folklore, he has always emphasized a matrix aspect of his character: genuineness. This is where charisma comes from. Whether you like it or hate it, for better or worse Ronaldo is like cotton, he can’t be mistaken.

Ronaldo honed himself to the zenith of his abilities at Real Madrid, and then the world icon Ronaldo emerged beyond the footballer. I searched for “Ronaldo” on google and the main options that came up were “Ronaldo – footballer” (the Brazilian) and “Cristiano Ronaldo”; “Cristiano Ronaldo” sums it all up, he doesn’t need to specify what he does, he is more than a footballer, he is… himself. In the move to Madrid we witnessed his passage to a new dimension, the dimension where sports performance is top notch, no doubt, but just the ticket to enter the Olympus of pop culture. And there you either have a unique charisma or you don’t get in, much less stay, no matter if you are a great showbiz professional, sportsman, singer, actor, politician, millionaire, etc. This is the dimension that the simple fan of the national soccer team doesn’t understand, but this is the dimension that Ronaldo brings to Portugal. It’s boring but that’s how it works.

The characteristic that seems to me most appreciated by the British is that he doesn’t resign himself to failure, starting with his own. For years and years, certainly more than a century ago, Portugal was being brought up in a fatal numbness that weakened its ambition to be first. Especially during the Estado Novo (New State), that humility (which amazingly still has a schooling today) got ingrained in the marrow of our bones: we found ridiculous, even insulting, anyone who was not ashamed to stand out. Carmen Miranda may have been born in Portugal but she would never have been Portuguese at heart. The corollary of the sporting success of the last century came in 1966 with a national team coached by a Brazilian, whose biggest star was one of the four Mozambicans in the squad.

People raised outside modest little Portugal, you see? Not once but twice the U-20 national team coached by a Mozambican won the World Cup in 1989 and 1991. It was a paradigm shift, it launched generations of new talents, got them used to living with the conquests, to daring to fight for trophies. It began to fall into disuse to return to Portugal to receive the welcoming embrace of failure. Ronaldo, who was even born outside the “fado rectangle” was one more of this new generation that opened itself to the world, going anywhere willing to stand out, to win, yet he raised the standard beyond the limits of the best on the planet, becoming a reference, a kind of classical hero of Greek mythology.

Ronaldo may be karma for everyone, I know, players, coaches, fans, but I have only one advice: hang in there! Find a way to integrate him in the game, to let him shine. And when I say this it’s not a payment for the man’s past contribution, it’s for his present contribution. He is on a much higher level than ordinary mortals, including his colleagues: we live the reality that is presented to us, he creates his. The fantastic thing is that the reality he creates often coincides with ours, or even proves to be more real. After seeing his interview with Piers Morgan I can’t help but be surprised to think that he might be right, and after all we only knew one version of the story.

Ronaldo forced his way out of Manchester United (his problem) claiming to feel cheated by returning to a club stuck in time, with managers not very interested in his sporting success, complaining about the disrespect of the manager, all things that here on the outside we see as the whims of a star in decadence, right?

Once again he didn’t wait for others to act for him, he took the reins of his destiny, he submitted the agenda of one of the richest clubs in the world to his own, he wasn’t afraid of being left hanging. This week he got what he wanted, a friendly termination, and on the same day the club owners announced their intention to sell him, that is: he was trounced in the media for criticizing the owners’ lack of interest in the club, and days later they proved him right, they are not really interested in the club…

Basically the interview was an all in, at this moment he has no club (as far as we know) raising the bar to the “impossible”, the kind of challenges that make him run: either he wins the World Cup or loses everything. He doesn’t even wait for other people’s challenges, ahahah, he anticipates his own.

I must confess that until the famous interview where he broke the dishes I had no faith in the national team, but since he threw himself into the all-or-nothing game I already believe, I even believe that he will score goals with his eyes, such must be the strength of soul to take the trophy home. Anyway, not for a second do I doubt that Ronaldo will give everything he has, because while his teammates will be happy to go far, Ronaldo is only interested in winning the final, less than that is nothing (I think so too).

He is 37 years old, has a museum full of trophies, what is his motivation to play football? None, what matters is to win the World Cup, which he lacks. As a matter of fact, he said so in that interview, if he won he would retire, of course, I understand that. He certainly doesn’t have the performance of other times, but other than that we are talking about another galaxy of advantages for the team and the country. Do you realize the added value he adds to a tourism advertising campaign for Portugal in Times Square in New York, the amount of fans and journalists from all over the world he drags behind Portugal, what it represents to be the figure with the most followers on Instagram worldwide, 500 million? Be men like him, hang in there everyone, and enjoy that it’s ending!

As for the game against Ghana, the summary is short: we were happy in the sequence of events. In the first half Mr. Engineer gave us his usual fearfulness, in the second half Ronaldo dug a penalty and scored. Then we have Ghana to thank for scoring a goal, otherwise Mr. Villax would still be defending the 1-0. The tie opened the hostilities, literally. Because of this, our youngsters became unconformable, applied more speed and killed the game… until they realized that they thought they had killed it. A good reminder that no opponent is there to be killed.

*PLATAFORMA ambassador

Este artigo está disponível em: Português

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