“Football has helped in redefining the world’s image of Brazil”
-Photo Credit- Nathan Congleton
His experience of playing football in Brazil . . .
"The experience of playing for Brazil is hard to put into words, because you go through so many emotions. You have such feelings. My childhood dream was to play even once for the Brazilian National team - to be a professional player for Sao Paulo, the football team where I was brought up, and to play once for Brazil.
The Bible says that God has much more for us than what we ask or think and that has been my experience. I achieved things I never imagined I could. I have already played in three World Cups for Brazil. I was part of the 2002 World Cup winning team, which was very emotional – because of the importance of football in Brazil and because of the way Brazilians feel about the National team and the World Cup. Playing for Brazil brings a lot of happiness. There is pressure and you feel a weight of responsibility, but good things also come along with all of that."
Why Brazil are so good at football . . .
"I don’t know. I think that this has already been the topic of many studies, but in the research no one has ever come to a conclusion. The truth is that football stars are born in Brazil. Amazing players are discovered every season. Now we are all following Neymar, Lucas, Oscar. It’s a new generation of great players, with excellent technique. But it is hard to explain why there are so many great players in Brazil. It is part of our culture, and a Brazilian secret."
How much football means to the people . . .
"Football is very important. The country is known throughout the world because of football. Brazil is famous for the carnival but that is not the real Brazil. Brazil has recently managed to rid itself of being seen as the country of Carnival. It used to upset many Brazilians, that Brazil was seen as a country where people partied from morning to night. Now the image of Brazil has changed, and football helped with that. Today if you tell anyone you are Brazilian people will say: Ah, Brazil, football - Ronaldo, Romario, Ronaldinho, Pele - and they remember those football players. I think football has helped a lot in redefining the world’s image of Brazil."
What makes Pele so special . . .
"Pele is special because he won three World Cups. Of course he is also special for his other achievements, like scoring more than 1,000 goals in his career - all of this is important. But what makes him a unique player is that he played in three World Cups which Brazil won.
As a player the most you can achieve is being a World Cup winner just once. And the thrill of being the champion and being there – it’s such a pleasure and a privilege. Since he was the star of those victories he was considered a player who was out of this world, beyond the norm and someone whom every Brazilian admires. And as a result the world has a special place in their heart for Pele."
His response to, 'you are rich and famous, you don't need Jesus' . . .
"My need of Jesus has nothing to do money, fame or success. My ability to play football was just a gift, a talent that He gave me. I believe that Jesus is more than that. He wants us, ourselves, our hearts. I truly believe Jesus does not care much for Kaka the football player. He is more concerned about Ricardo: who I am, and the person that I am. That’s what I’ve been working on every day - to become a better person.
My football ability is a gift from God. And I work very hard every day to be better at it, so that I am honouring and glorifying His name. So that every time I play a game, I honour Jesus’ name. But honestly, I think that He is more concerned with my personal life - as Ricardo - than with the life of the footballer which will be over in 4 or 5 years. But I will still have the rest of my life to live. After I have stopped playing I will still have much of life left and I can still use my life to be a witness to the marvellous God we have."
What difference his faith makes to his life . . .
"The difference that Jesus makes in my life is the values that He gives me, based on what the Bible teaches and my daily relationship with God. It is great to know that my family is on the same page, living with the same values. And I have the help of my wife at all times in prayer and in the faith. The difference is, to know that we have a God! That’s the big difference. To know that, regardless of the situation, good or bad, there is a God who loves us. That makes all the difference to me.
I have been through great moments in my career but I have gone through hard times as well - in my career and in my personal life. In all those moments I could count on God. And in my prayers, and in the Bible - the word of God - and with friends who share the same faith that I do. Those are things that make all the difference."
How he deals with sporting disappointments . . .
"I see disappointments as part of God’s plan. Because I think God really has a purpose for everything, and there is a time for all things, that’s the way I deal with things that don’t turn out as I planned. Man can make plans, but the realisation comes from God. So I make plans, and many times they do not turn out as I expected.
From that I’ve been learning that whatever happens is what God wants for my life. I have been planting and watering, and whatever comes up as fruit, I know, is what God wants for me. God gives me everything I need, and that’s the assurance that I have. Everyday I have all I need for that day. And as far as my desires are concerned, God will grant them when He deems it right."
Content Credit- Athletes in Action & Stuart Weir.
-Photo License- Nathan Congleton