A Champion Left Out

Ronaldinho Gaucho Won’t Play
World Cup in Africa for Brazil

Brazil’s national soccer team, the record five-time world champions and currently FIFA ranking #1, is all set for the World Cup in South Africa. Kaka and Robinho, two veterans of the German cup four years ago, will lead a forceful lineup, one that mirrors coach Dunga’s warrior style of playing.
But one headliner will stay at home: Ronaldinho Gaucho. At this moment in Brazil, passions run high about the topic, and anyone risks personal injury just for expressing an opinion contrary to what the bar crowd professes, however it may be.
Ronaldinho’s stellar participation in Brazil’s 2002 victory in Japan and South Korea (remember, England?) was followed by records and more incredible goals for Spain’s Barcelona. But it all fizzled in Germany and he was not alone. World Cup top scorer Ronaldo was overweight, and the team’s performance was under par, including the same Kaka and Robinho plus Adriano, who’s also not going to Africa.
Somehow, the most flak went to Ronaldinho after the loss to France that sent the team home – and being photographed playing drums in a Spanish nightclub right after the game didn’t help his case either.
He’s been playing with less wattage but still effectively for Italy’s Milan, some say, just in time to be called upon to serve the national team. No dice.
Dunga, ever the disciplinarian who was also a world champion in the 1994 World Cup in the U.S., never showed great interest in having Ronaldinho in the lineup, perhaps because of the reputation of party lover that tagged along the twice World Player of the Year.
Regardless of how well Brazil does in South Africa, it will have little to do with Ronaldinho, whose best days are clearly behind him. But boy, what treasuries he’s leaving us all to remember. His name already in the history books, it’s safe to say, no one ever played the “jogo bonito” with such a joi de vivre. Brazil will move on, of course, but let’s take a moment to thank the great Ronaldinho Gaucho for the memories.

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