Talking Soccer: Goodbye to the man with the brightest smile

FILE - In this July 1, 2006 file photo, Brazil's Ronaldinho reacts shortly before the end of the Brazil vs. France World Cup quarterfinal soccer match in Frankfurt, Germany. The brother and agent of 2005 Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldinho says on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, the former Brazil and Barcelona playmaker has retired from football. (AP Photo/ Michael Probst, File)

A generation of soccer fans grew up watching him, a man who will be remembered by his bright smile and made you believe soccer was more than just a game. Ronaldo de Asis Moreira, better known as Ronaldinho, retired last week.

“Football is about joy, it’s about dribbling,” Ronaldinho said. “I favour every idea that makes the game beautiful. Every good idea has to last.”

He had crooked teeth with a smile so wide that it made you smile. But when Ronaldinho smiled, he smiled with his eyes. You knew he was happy when he had a ball in his feet and it made you happy to be watching him.

I became a soccer fan toward the end of Ronaldinho’s career in Barcelona and I remember when he left the club in 2008. Perhaps his best years were behind him, but it hurt to see his eyes—those eyes that were always happy— brimming with tears, signaling a sad end to a magical man on a magical team.

When Ronaldinho was at Barcelona, he took them to the 2006 Champions’ League final in Paris and won the Ballon d’Or while at the club. He had incredible goals, incredible dribbles and most importantly, he had the love from fans around the world.

If there’s anything that will tell you how much people loved and respected this player, it’s the night of Nov. 19, 2005, the night that Real Madrid fans gave a standing ovation to the best player from their most hated rival.

It is a burning image that will last forever. His second goal of the game in which he dribbled the ball from almost his own half and beat goalkeeper Iker Casillas to put Barcelona up 3-0. brought fans at the Bernabeu to an applause. There are not many players in the world, let alone from Barcelona who will get that kind of response from that stadium.

It was Ronaldinho at his peak. He represented the Brazilian way of playing soccer. The jogo bonito, the pass without looking, hiding the ball, the faint with the body, jogging the ball.

Some people might critique that style today, but that style embodied the essence of Ronaldinho and how he saw the game. It was music for him, and art for those who saw it.

Isn’t it called the beautiful game for a reason?

Even if I didn’t grow up with him, Ronaldinho may have given me the best gift anyone could give me: the gift of Lionel Messi.

Ronaldinho took Messi under his wing, guided him as a teenage prodigy. Ronaldinho gave Messi the assist to his first goal ever at Barcelona. 532 goals later, and I believe wholeheartedly that Messi wouldn’t be who he is without Ronaldinho’s influence at Barcelona.

Ronaldinho is the only player in the history of football who has won the World Cup, the Champions League, Copa Libertadores and Ballon d’Or.

Ronaldinho, a man who changed football and inspired many. He taught kids around the world to smile while playing and enjoy the sport.

We will miss you.


Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.marulanda@uconn.edu.