Ronaldinho Became A Teenage Sensation After Scoring 23 Goals In A Single Game

Ronaldinho announced himself to the Brazilian public after scoring 23 goals in a single match as a 13-year-old.

It’s the kind of popular legend that is usually attributed to a “friend of a friend” and rooted in invention and fantasy, a cheap tale to explain the otherworldly. When professional football freestyler Billy Wingrove met Ronaldinho as part of Nike’s Joga Bonito advertising campaign, he said: “I’ve got two questions. One, is there a heaven? Two, how did he [Ronaldinho] get this good?”

The tale of Ronaldinho scoring 23 goals in a single game as a 13-year-old offers us a small account or explanation of Ronaldinho’s absurd brilliance. While other stories of this nature would be immediately classified as skeptical at best, Ronaldinho’s legend demands our trust. Of course he accomplished this feat, he’s Ronaldinho Gaucho, the 2005 Ballon d’Or winner.

Speaking with FourFourTwo’s Mauricio Savarese, Ronaldinho confirmed the feat.

“I did, but those kids were terrible! They only played in physical education class, for fun. But I was already in a youth team, which explains a lot. It was in fifth grade and it was never that easy again. I should say that this was earlier than when you see me in those ads as a kid playing futsal. That came later. Against proper opposition.”

Born Ronaldo de Assis Moreira on March 21, 1980, in the city of Porto Alegre, the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, he was given the nickname Ronaldinho because of his stature. He was often the youngest and smallest player on the field during his youth matches. 

 

Ronaldinho idolized Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Diego Maradona and his father Joao de Assis Moreira, who was a footballer for local club Esporte Clube Cruzeiro before suffering a fatal heart attack when Ronaldinho was only eight.

Around this time, Ronaldinho joined the Gremio youth system. It was shortly after Ronaldinho’s 23-goal game that he decided to become a professional footballer. While watching the 1994 World Cup, it became clear to Ronaldinho that he had to move from indoor to outdoor football.

“I loved futsal and it was difficult for me to give it up,” said Ronaldinho. “In 1994, it was great to see one player [Romario] do so much for the team. If all teams had one player like Romario, it would have been much tougher for Brazil in that tournament. Brazilians learned in 1994 that a team must be complete — it must know how to defend.”

Ronaldinho played for the Gremio senior side for three seasons between 1998 and 2000. After scoring 41 goals in 49 appearances during the 2000 season, Paris Saint-Germain signed Ronaldinho on a five-year contract after a €5 million transfer fee. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

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