O Fenômeno: We play, they learn
© FIFA.com

“I would love to have played in this World Cup. I think I’ve missed it by 10 years and a few more kilos,” O Fenômeno said with a gentle smile.

The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year (1992, 1997, 2002) took time to talk to FIFA.com at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio De Janeiro. Outside, it was a perfect Brazilian afternoon - all blue skies, calm waters and sun. Inside the auditorium, however, a heat and current of a different kind permeated. Ronaldo, like everyone else filling the room, was here to watch the semi-finals and final of the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2014, the virtual equivalent of the real deal, The 2014 FIFA World Cup™.

“This is a unique moment that we have lived in. It’s spectacular. Everyone enjoying and celebrating football, knowing and enjoying our cities and our culture. And above all, watching incredible games,” said Ronaldo of hosting the World Cup in his home country.

“I don’t notice the difference,” he said when comparing real to virtual football. “I think a genius made this video game. You can see they learn from us, the players on the field. So I think we still have to improve on the real field to improve the videogame even more.” Ronaldo’s remark is on the nose. Speak to any EA SPORTS™ developer working on the FIFA-series and the reverence they have for football is obvious, with developers constantly reviewing the weekend’s football matches as they continue to find new ways of incorporating real football into the virtual game.

“Yeah I play often,” said Ronaldo of his PlayStation skills, switching between a variety of languages as people say hello, picked up from his time playing in the Netherlands, Spain and Italy. “When we would go to the hotel, waiting for the real games, all the players would play FIFA on the PlayStation. There’s not much to do in the hotels so we would play video games,” he said. “I’m not so good as the guys who play here at the semi-finals and final, but I play well against my kids and my friends.”

When asked if he were given the chance, which goal in which game, would he most love to see immortalized in the videogame, Ronaldo answered quickly and with a chilling certainty. He has clearly thought of this goal often. “Against Germany, 2002” he said. That year, Ronaldo returned to football after injuries that had stalled his career for some 15-months. His sensational outing at Korea/Japan 2002 – in which he scored 8 goals at the tournament - culminated with a brace in the Final that gave Brazil their fifth world title. For his part, Ronaldo would receive the golden shoe and later, his third world player of the year award. “Why a goal from that game?” he answered flatly, as if it’s all too obvious, “Because we won and I scored. You don’t remember, no?” said Ronaldo before breaking into a laugh, while outside the auditorium, you could still hear the faint sound of fans chanting his name, hoping for another glimpse of O Fenômeno.

“I love football, I watch it all, but I can’t score any more goals,” is Ronaldo’s response when discussing Miroslav Klose recently replacing him as the top goalscorer at the FIFA World Cup. “I think he deserves it. He’s a very good striker and he scored a lot of goals. If I’m not playing, I don’t have a problem if someone beats me and my record.” Ever competitive, you get the impression that if Ronaldo were still playing, his answer would be very different and arrive, perhaps not in language, but in the form of a ball hitting the back of a net at a World Cup.

“I like playing videos games in my spare time. I mainly play with my oldest son. He plays a lot,” said Ronaldo, whose virtual allegiances are clear. “I only select Brazil and Real Madrid. At this moment my son uses Barcelona.” Asked if his son’s choice opens old wounds, given his abrupt departure from Barça in 1997 after one incredible season, he just laughed. “No, not at all. It’s all about fun. My son beats me a lot of the time. But sometimes I get to win.”