If one was asked to pick a particular moment from the 2002 World Cup, the chances are that one would pick the moment when a young Brazilian footballer stepped up to take a free-kick and outwitted England goalkeeper David Seaman.
The goal brought Ronaldinho into the limelight (apart from helping Brazil to the World Cup title) and there was no looking back for the talented midfielder who went to conquer all the major trophies in the world with Barcelona and AC Milan including the Ballon d’Or in 2005.
We caught up with Ronaldinho, who is in Chennai as a marquee player for Goa 5s in the Luis Figo co-owned Premier Futsal, for a quick conversation on all things football.
Question: We have heard about how you started at a young age with Futsal and how you scored 23 goals in your first match. Is the story true?
Answer: Yes, it is true (laughs). I was young and enjoying my football really well. But I must say the opposition wasn’t all that good.
This is your third visit to India. In the previous two visits you couldn’t explore the country well, so are you planning to change that now?
Unfortunately, I’m short of time. So definitely not during this visit. But I would definitely like to come back. Perhaps with a little less publicity so that I can enjoy some free time and explore the country more.
What made you sign up for this Futsal project?
I have my roots in Futsal. It has helped me a lot. And I see a lot of potential in a country like India where the sport can really grow. Also I’m good friends with Figo, Falcao and the other legends, so it convinced me to come.
What do you think about the Indian players? Would you consider playing here at some point?
I played with a lot of kids. I think the country has a lot of potential. I hope Futsal and all the legends coming here acts as a huge motivation for all. Soon India will have world-renowned talent. As for my future, it is still uncertain. I will see it as it comes. But this is one place I feel really comfortable. So I do not rule out this possibility.
Which two players will be the key for Brazil in the upcoming Rio Games? Will Neymar make a huge difference?
Neymar is one of the biggest talents in the world today and it is very important to have a mix of youth and experience in the team. I am sure that Brazil will be able to do well in Rio.
Is Brazil missing a talented Centre-Forward? After Ronaldo, there has been no real world-class striker for Brazil and is that impacting the national side? Do you think the dearth of talented CFs across the world has anything to do with the evolution of possession football that relies mainly on talented, quick players like Neymar?
Brazil will always continue to produce talented footballers. This generation of footballers have still not found their feet, but they will soon. Brazil as a country itself is going through testing times. It’s not like Brazil did not have World-class strikers after Ronaldo. Adriano was very good. But I am sure the team will come good soon.
You were a mentor to young Messi during your time at Barcelona. Now we see Messi taking up that role for Neymar. How do you feel about it?
It’s important that the experienced ones share their thoughts and guide the young players. Messi and I shared that kind of a rapport, and I think it’s the same between him and Neymar now. I believe, it’s been helping Neymar do well.
Messi has retired from International football without a major trophy. What do you feel about it?
Messi retiring from football without a major trophy with his National team isn’t going to change the fact that he’s one of the best players in the world. For me, he isn’t missing out on anything. Football and its fans are missing out on him.