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Ronaldo: Nostalgia for the ‘Craque’

August 30, 2010

Ronaldo at Corinthians in 2009: the last good year

Brazilian fans have a very specific name for their football Gods: “craque”! Players like Pele, Rivelino, Falcao, Zico, Maradona, Zidane…they are all craques. The term is, like so much of Brazilian culture itself, untranslatable.  It may have something to do with ‘cracking’, as in the Brazilian expression for when a talented striker dribbles past the opponent with flair, leaving the defender on the ground: “he just cracked his spine”.

However, the best definition of the term truly belongs to Rio’s intellectual Max Nunes: “a craque is that player able to dribble past us, we that are sitting on the couch, watching him on our television”. Indeed, it is a special kind of talent and dance-like moves that make even us, the audience, shift from our seats – breaking our spines.

Ronaldo Nazario de Lima, or simply ‘Ronaldo’, is that type of player.

Or at least, he was.

A three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, twice World Cup winner, worshiped with equal passion by rival fans from Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Inter Milan and AC Milan, and the top World Cup goal-scorer of all time, Ronaldo has achieved the type of success and glory that most footballers can only dream of. However, at 34, and struggling with a series of painful injuries, Ronaldo today battles against his weight and a lifelong obsession with overcoming challenges. But when is enough, enough?

Ronaldo: changing shapes...

Ronaldo sustained three career-threatening knee injuries in his twenties. Moreover, not only was he able to astound most doctors by fully recovering from them, he also seemed to improve, as a player, after each major injury. He kept on coming back, and getting better and better. And winning more and more titles. But then something happened to him, something that he cannot seem to beat with the same kind of ease – even though what happened seemed to be so natural: he aged.

Ronaldo’s body grew older, faster, due to his long list of severe injuries; his legs will not listen to his craque mind anymore…

What is one to do? Should one simply quit once the body and the mind no longer speak to each other? Should someone like Ronaldo, who made a name for himself precisely because of the fact that he was able to recover from injuries and unthinkable pains, simply call it a day? What will go through the minds and hearts of the fans once that craque is finally unable to pick himself up, and is carried away, for the very last time?

Today marked yet another ‘come back’ in Ronaldo’s career. After months of recovery, Ronaldo was finally included in the starting line-up with Brazilian club Corinthians. Clearly overweight and lacking rhythm, he was struggling from the very beginning, and collapsed on the field just two minutes into the match, holding his thighs. Thankfully, Ronaldo quickly recovered and was able to play the full first half of the match. The craque even contributed with silky-smooth passes and a couple of powerful and dangerous kicks, but he was only a shadow of the genius he once was.

July 1st, 2006: Ronaldo's last match with Brazil.

Perhaps that shouldn’t bother us. It should be enough to simply admire that the man is out there, on the field, working hard. It should be enough to be able to witness even a split second glimpse of his genius when he touches the ball. It is enough that Ronaldo himself is bothered by his aging body. We should not be bothered at all. What else could we possibly ask for? What else do we want from him? He has given us everything a footballer can give, and much more. The battle Ronaldo faces right now is with himself; with his own mortality. It does not involve us, the fans. He needs to play because he needs to play; because he wants to play – or at least try to play. Who cares if he’s “too fat”, really? Ronaldo has moved beyond the realm of sports. Wherever he’s playing, the place automatically becomes a “World Heritage Site”. He is History in the flesh. And History is never slim! It is fat packed with stuff; with tales and memorable experiences; with victories and defeats, and no one is mad enough to deny that Ronaldo is, above everything, the embodiment of a true winner.

Nevertheless, yes, he is reaching his final days. This is his last year playing professionally. All the more reason to truly enjoy seeing him out there wearing the Corinthian kit. His long and glorious history is coming to a closure…but rest assured, more craques will rise. Neymar will most likely inherit the throne. The young Santos striker is so thin his body gets lost within his jersey, and we cannot wait for him to put on some of that thick and tough Ronaldo history, and dazzle us as we crack our spines on the couch.

Ronaldo and Neymar: Past and Future Converging


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