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Why I don’t like Ronaldinho

March 21, 2011

Ronaldinho partying in Rio: ridiculous hats.

Say, have you seen a Carioca?
It’s not a foxtrot or a polka
It has a little bit of new rhythm, a blue rhythm that sighs

It has a meter that is tricky
A bit of wicked wacky-wicky
But when you dance it with a new love, there’s a true love in her eye…

The lyrics above are from a popular 1930s song called “The Carioca”, which depicts the culture and people of Rio de Janeiro through dance moves.  It is a clever and colourful way to portray Cariocas, since Rio de Janeiro is famous for its bombastic carnivals, gorgeous beaches and a delightful bohemian lifestyle. Furthermore, Cariocas are credited with the invention of samba, bossa nova and many other rhythms. Indeed, they are a creative and extremely charismatic bunch.

They are also loud, obnoxious and rather self-absorbed – and I don’t mean that negatively, mind you. Think Romario, and you will get the picture. Now a Congressman representing the State of Rio de Janeiro in Brasilia, The 1994 World Player of the Year remains as classically and as eccentrically Carioca as ever. In early 2011, during his first parliamentary session in the Chamber of Deputies (he missed the very first meeting of the year to go to the beach), Romario fell asleep.

But it’s all good, because Romario is a Carioca, and Cariocas are fun; so don’t lose any sleep over it.

What does all of that have to do with Ronaldinho? Well, he now plays for Rio’s Flamengo, and when I look at him today, I see a twisted, farcical and “made-in-China” version of a Carioca.

And that truly bothers me.

But my issues with Ronaldinho go far deeper than his phony bandana and bohemian flair – although those things annoy me as well.

My problem with him is that he tries too hard. Ironic, I understand, since most people now perceive him as a lazy and undisciplined athlete, putting on just the bare minimum of effort necessary to perform. However, I’m not referring to his skills as a footballer either. What I mean is that he tries too hard to give off this joyful samba vibe by portraying himself as free-spirit of the beautiful game, with his giddy dance celebrations on the pitch, and night clubbing adventures off it.

In short, there’s something about his joie-de-vivre that rings false to me.

As the great Juca Kfouri once said: “Ronaldinho seems to be more of an artist, a trickster, than a footballer.”

Personally, I don’t have a problem with someone using football as means to create art, as long as the artist – and his art – be somewhat original, or exciting. Denilson, for instance, never truly became a full-fledged footballer. But there was pleasure in watching him perform those insanely quick step-overs and back-heel passes.

During his pre-2006 World Cup years at Barcelona, Ronaldinho was very much a pleasure to watch. Pure joy seemed to radiate from his soul and feet, and under the management of Frank Rijkaard, Ronaldinho helped to resurrect the winning mentality of Barcelona.

However, after an uninspiring and pathetic performance with Brazil at Germany 2006, Ronaldinho’s woes and cracks began to overshadow his originality within the pitch. The midfielder’s ego, though, continued to grow wildly, unaware that he was no longer as special and as magical as his publicists suggested.

Unhappy at Barcelona after five seasons of ups and downs, Ronaldinho made a move to Italy, joining giants AC Milan. Many in Brazil, myself included, saw the move as a “favour”, a gesture of kindness towards the once brilliant playmaker. After all, AC Milan have long held a tradition of signing Brazilian talent, and with former Selecao star Leonardo as one of the directors at the club, Ronaldinho found an easy path towards joining the team in 2008.

Nevertheless, the following two seasons spent in Italy didn’t heal Ronaldinho’s partyboy image, and he remained as inconsistent and frustrating as ever. The once muscular abs were now covered by an overabundance of blubber, and Ronaldinho was forced to change his style of play as he no longer had the pace and cheekiness that made him famous.

Consequently, Brazil manager Dunga chose to leave him out of the national squad, and Ronaldinho’s dream to play at the 2010 World Cup never came true. Realizing that his old form and days of glory were over, Ronaldinho decided that it was time to leave Europe, and head back home.

And that is when I started to become increasingly irritated with the man…

Ronaldinho is back in Brazil, and so are my old feelings of contempt. I must confess, he actually irritated me from the very beginning, when he was still a nineteen-year old at Gremio. As soon as Ronaldinho exploded onto the footballing scene in the late 90s, my very first thought was “are you kidding me, another Ronaldo? As if we need another one.”

Silly, I know. But it makes sense, hear me out.

When Ronaldinho achieved fame as a cheeky dribbler in the Rio Grande do Sul State Championship in Brazil, Ronaldo (then at Inter Milan) was the world’s most famous footballer. And many people don’t know this, but in Brazil Ronaldo was widely known as Ronaldinho. The name “Ronaldo” was featured on the back of his jersey, yes, but everyone in Brazil called him Ronaldinho (the suffix “dinho” means little), the wonder boy from Cruzeiro. So when another big-toothed dribbler named Ronaldo showed up, the Brazilian media, in order to avoid confusion, nicknamed the newcomer Ronaldinho Gaucho (in virtue of his birth place, the Gaucho State of Rio Grande do Sul), and Ronaldo continued to be Ronaldinho. But the confusion remained (“shockingly”), since the rest of the world referred to the big-toothed striker from Inter Milan as Ronaldo, and the Gremio star as Ronaldinho. Thus, Brazilians followed suit. Inter’s Ronaldinho became simply Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho remained Ronaldinho Gaucho (even though internationally he continues to be called simply Ronaldinho).

The whole debacle became even more puzzling after the ascension of Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. But let that pass before our heads explode…

Indeed, as Juliet famously said, “what’s in a name?”

However, in this case, I must disagree with Bill Shakespeare. In my view, from the very beginning, Ronaldinho (the Gaucho) has tried to become an ultra original player by reason of his name belonging to someone else. Nonetheless, I don’t think that’s a decision he made alone for himself. Ronaldinho has been marketed as the inflated personification of samba-football by his large group of advisors and publicists; and frankly, it’s all a bit over the top.  The longer his hair became, the more colours his boots featured, the more ridiculous his nightlife berets and medallions were, the less of a footballer and the more of an empty popstar figure he turned into.

Was Ronaldinho forced to become a mere concept, an idea of the “true Brazilian footballer” in order to escape the shadows of his contemporaries? Who knows…and maybe it’s just me.

Perhaps I take it personally that he usurped the nickname of my favourite player of all time.

Whatever the reason, Ronaldinho has never convinced me. I remain uncertain as to what he truly wants to achieve. His reasons for becoming a footballer are still unclear to me. The man is a walking contradiction. He yearns for the role of the protagonist, but whenever presented with the opportunity, he fails to perform. As the best player on the planet in 2006, the world of football belonged to Ronaldinho. It was his the responsibility to lead Brazil to the ultimate glory by winning the tournament in Germany, but anxiety took over his being. In fact, for someone so experienced, Ronaldinho continues to display the anxiety and insecurities of a green newcomer, performing best when given a supporting role, as in the 2002 World Cup.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh, and biased. You see, I was also born in the Gaucho State of Rio Grande do Sul. I take pride in the pragmatism (the rest of Brazil calls it coldness) and discipline (the rest of Brazil calls it stiffness) of my people. The footballing tradition of the Gaucho State is the closest to the European style one can find in South America. Highly physical players such as Dunga, Emerson and Lucio all hailed from that style of play. Incidentally, those three players captained Brazil at World Cups. Indeed, the Gaucho tradition is also known for producing good leaders. The widely respected manager Felipe Scolari is another example of that tough Gaucho discipline and leadership.

I fail to see what’s Gaucho about Ronaldinho, and that disappoints me. Obviously, I don’t expect him to be tough like Lucio, or to grow a manly moustache like Scolari’s. But if he is to be called “Ronaldinho Gaucho”, he at least better have a sense of discipline and character. I’m not criticizing him on racial terms here, believe me. The false advertising is what bothers me. Ronaldinho tries to be so many things at once (a free-spirit that likes to party, a Carioca-Gaucho, a samba dancer, a trickster, a poster boy for Jogo Bonito), but being a great footballer doesn’t seem to be on the list.

Basically, I feel cheated. And that leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I can see through his smile that he’s still that insecure boy from Gremio, whose name had already been made famous by someone else. He is an actor putting on a show, whose character is constantly breaking.

Ronaldinho is the stereotype of the “fun brazilian.” And his refusal to re-sign with Gaucho club Gremio upon returning to Brazil, choosing Flamengo instead, made us realize that Ronaldinho was still not interested in embracing discipline – and he never will be.

Flamengo is Brazil’s most popular club; it is the team of Rio’s boisterous and bohemian working class.

The metamorphosis into Ronaldinho Carioca is now officially complete.

And he seems faker than ever.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 4:52 pm

    Wow I never read such an detailed analysis of Ronaldo de Assis Moreira. I am really sorry for him at times despite his millions. I really think he could have been regarded as one of the best of all times if he could have kept up his level. Great work man

  2. Brice permalink
    June 8, 2011 8:25 pm

    Nice constructive analysis of Ronnie. There is a lot of truth to what your are saying, but I feel you are being a little to harsh on one of the best footballers of his generation. I don’t know what you really want from the guy, he accomplished basically every major triumph in his sport and maybe his motivation has waned because he may want to focus on living his life and being with his family in Brazil. His main reason on earth is not to play football for our amusement but to enjoy himself. In my opinion he still has the potential to be one of the best in the world, but he has already been there and what does he doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone.

  3. marco permalink
    June 16, 2011 4:58 pm

    this is a nothing but pointless vapid musings. so you dont like his name, you dont like that he parties. so the fuck what. Ronaldinho has earned it. He has brought joy to the game to the fans and now its his time to enjoy life and football. your envy is so red hot it burns. get a life

    • June 16, 2011 5:04 pm

      How about constructive criticism? And how about a sense of humour? And how about you read the piece again, properly, patiently, without feeling like I just trashed your super hero, and realize that what I am (partially) mocking is my own personal feelings of betrayal as a Gaucho, since he didn’t return to Gremio. Christ…

      • October 28, 2011 3:06 pm

        Great response brother. I will be writing a piece on Ronaldinho soon and will make sure I will backlink it to this for people who do not like him. 🙂


  1. Ronaldinho - The Forgotten magician back on the rise. | Footynions TestFootynions Test

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