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Soccer superstar Ronaldinho was a member of Brazil's 2002 World Cup championship team and twice won the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
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Born on March 21, 1980, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Ronaldinho came from a family of soccer players to reach the pinnacle of success in the sport. After a celebrated youth career, Ronaldinho became a key member of the Brazilian team that won the 2002 World Cup. He has played for clubs in Brazil, France, Spain and Italy, and twice been named FIFA World Player of the Year.
"I come from a family where soccer has always been very present."
"My uncles, my father and my brother were all [soccer] players. Living with that kind of background, I learned a great deal from them. I tried to devote myself to it more and more with the passage of time."
"A lot of the moves I make originate from futsal. It's played in a very small space, and the ball control is different in futsal. And to this day, my ball control is pretty similar to a futsal player's control."
Ronaldinho was born Ronaldo de Assis Moreira on March 21, 1980, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. His father, João Moreira, was a former professional soccer player who also worked as a welder in a shipyard, and his mother, Miguelina de Assis, was a cosmetics saleswoman who later became a nurse. Ronaldinho's older brother, Roberto Assis, was also a professional soccer player; Ronaldinho was surrounded by soccer from the day he was born. "I come from a family where soccer has always been very present," he says. "My uncles, my father and my brother were all players. Living with that kind of background, I learned a great deal from them. I tried to devote myself to it more and more with the passage of time."
In particular, Ronaldinho idolized his father. "He was one of the most important people for me and in my career, even though he died when I was very young," he says. (João Moreira suffered a fatal heart attack when Ronaldinho was 8 years old.) "He gave me some of the best advice I've ever had. Off the field: 'Do the right thing and be an honest, straight-up guy.' And on the field: 'Play soccer as simply as possible.' He always said one of the most complicated things you can do is to play it simple."
Ronaldinho began playing organized youth soccer at the age of 7, and it was as a youth soccer player that he first received the nickname "Ronaldinho," the diminutive form of his birth name, Ronaldo. "They always called me that when I was little because I was really small," the player explains, "and I played with players who were older than me. When I got to the senior national team there was another Ronaldo, so they started calling me Ronaldinho because I was younger."
Growing up in a relatively poor, hardscrabble neighborhood, Ronaldinho's youth teams had to make do with makeshift playing fields. "The only grass on the field was in the corner," Ronaldinho remembers. "There was no grass in the middle! It was just sand." In addition to soccer, Ronaldinho also played futsal—an offshoot of soccer played indoors on a hard court surface and with only five players on each side. Ronaldinho's early experiences with futsal helped shape his unique playing style, marked by his remarkable touch and close control on the ball. "A lot of the moves I make originate from futsal," Ronaldinho once said, explaining, "It's played in a very small space, and the ball control is different in futsal. And to this day, my ball control is pretty similar to a futsal player's control."
Ronaldinho quickly developed into one of Brazil's most talented youth soccer players. When he was 13 years old, he once scored a ridiculous 23 goals in a single game.
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