2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™

31 May - 30 June

2002 FIFA World Cup™

Ronaldo: It was a fabulous feeling to kiss the Trophy

© Getty Images
  • ​Baby Ronald softens the blow
  • Holding and kissing gold
  • 'It wasn’t about Rivaldo, Ronaldinho or Ronaldo'

Ronaldo had barely kicked a ball in two-and-a-half years. Brazil had barely booked their place at Asia’s first FIFA World Cup™. After 30 days in the Far East, however, O Fenômeno held the adidas Golden Boot and Brazil the Trophy.

FIFA Magazine caught up with Ronaldo to discuss his recovery from two career-threatening injuries, winning Korea/Japan 2002 and his USA 1994 experience.

Ronaldo, how did it feel to lift the Trophy?
It is a wonderful feeling to have won this Trophy. It was very moving to see how many people were jubilant after we won. I wanted to become a world champion so badly. Achieving that goal, winning the biggest prize there is to win in football, made me ecstatically happy.

How often had you thought about lifting the Trophy before Korea/Japan 2002?
Every day during the weeks and months before the tournament. Every minute during the World Cup. I used to visualise the Trophy in front of my eyes and imagine what a wonderful feeling it must be to hold it up in the air. It was a fabulous feeling actually to hold it in my hands and kiss it.

You suffered a great deal before the 2002 World Cup. You had two serious knee injuries and were prevented from playing for about two years. How did you cope with it?
It was an extremely hard and never-ending ordeal for me. My family, physiotherapists and doctors all encouraged me to persevere – and it was worth it. Another major boost was that I became a father for the first time while I was injured. The birth of my son, Ronald, gave me extra strength to endure the endless torture.

Some doctors even predicted your career was over when you were injured for the second time…
To be honest, it never occurred to me that it was the end of my career as a footballer. I never had any doubt that I would be back. And I never doubted for a second that the long ordeal, rehabilitation and pain were all worthwhile.

Where did you get the mental strength to endure two serious injuries and regain world-class form again?
I have very strong will-power. And my passion for football was insatiable. No effort was too great for me. I could suffer anything as long as I could play football again. I not only played football, I breathed football.

What did you think of Korea/Japan 2002 as a tournament?
People were mesmerised by this World Cup, not only in Korea and Japan. Most of the games were attractive and there were many wonderful goals and brilliant moves. This championship was an all-round success. The stadia were superb, the atmosphere electrifying, and the hospitality from the hosts was overwhelming.

You were a world champion with Brazil at USA 1994, but they did not field you in the USA. Did you feel like a world champion just the same?
I was overjoyed even then. But it is a completely different feeling if you become a world champion as a substitute or as a leading player. In any case, all the 23 Brazilian players who won the title in 2002 are delighted with the win. Each and every one of them played a part in the outstanding triumph and all of them can be proud of it. It wasn't Rivaldo, Ronaldinho or Ronaldo that became world champion, but a group of Brazilians who played brilliant football and harmonised well both on and off the field.

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