Given his prodigious goalscoring record in FIFA World Cup™ finals, Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima richly deserves his nickname of O Fenômeno. The scorer of 15 goals in 11 world finals appearances at France 1998, Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, having also made the Brazil squad for USA 1994, the legendary striker is the leading marksman in the history of the competition, striking a staggering 1.4 goals per game.
There is more, much more, to Ronaldo than that landmark achievement, however. A role model to many, he has also set an example off the pitch, a fact he underlined once more on Thursday in accepting a position on the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Local Organising Committee Management Board.
The ex-Seleção star will have a voice and take an active role on the Board. As well as lending his image as a footballing champion, he will give his support in the day-to-day running of the LOC and help ensure projects reach completion.
“I couldn’t think of anyone who symbolises our national identity better than Ronaldo, a man who’s proved that we Brazilians can reach the top,” enthused LOC President Ricardo Teixeira. “We followed every step of his fantastic career and we know he’s the right man coming in at the right time.”
Delighted to come on board, O Fenômeno said he would use his high profile to ensure that Brazil stages a memorable tournament: “It’s an honour for me to accept this great challenge. This FIFA World Cup is for the people of Brazil and I want to make my contribution. We’ll be monitoring preparations very closely and we’re going to show how proud we are to be hosting the World Cup.”
“Ronaldo was a fantastic player. Three times the FIFA World Player of the Year, he was also a world champion in 1994 and 2002, and took part in four FIFA World Cup finals in all, becoming the competition’s highest scorer of all time in the process,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, welcoming the former player’s appointment to the LOC.
“We are very pleased that Ronaldo has agreed to join the team and play his part in making the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil a success. He will have a very important contribution to make in what will be his fifth world finals, albeit off the pitch this time. We wish him very well in his new job.”
A glittering career
Born in Bento Ribeiro, a humble suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Ronaldo took his first steps in the game with nearby club Sao Cristovao, devoting the little money he had to his bus fares. A considerable cut above his peers, it was not long before the lithe youngster got himself noticed. The man who discovered him was none other than Brazil winger Jairzinho, a star of A Selecão’s stunning triumph at Mexico 1970.
Signing on the dotted line for Cruzeiro at the age of 17, Ronaldo quickly earned a call-up to the national U-17 team, the stepping stones for a move to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. The following year he was named in the Brazil squad for USA 1994, and though he failed to make an appearance the lethal striker never looked back.
The top scorer in the 1993 Supercopa Libertadores and the Dutch league two years later, he then joined Barcelona and ran out leading scorer in La Liga in 1996/97. In the meantime he won bronze for his country at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Atlanta 1996, the year in which he won his first FIFA World Player award.
By this time dubbed O Fenômeno, Ronaldo claimed the FIFA World Player crown again in 1997, when he left Spain for Inter Milan. Recovering from serious injury he was named the best player on the planet for a third time in 2002, in recognition of his scoring exploits in Korea Republic and Japan.
Then came a move to Real Madrid, where he topped the Liga scoring charts once more in 2003/04. After a spell with AC Milan, he eventually returned home in 2009 with Corinthians, the club where he announced his retirement earlier this year.
Named a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, Ronaldo has been the driving force behind a number of initiatives, among them a fundraising match between Brazil and Haiti, and also devotes his considerable energies to sports management.
Now 35, the man who used to terrorise defences the world over has turned his hand to an exciting new venture, taking on a key role in the staging of the biggest footballing show on Earth.