On Monday evening, the 2015 Ballon d’Or winner was announced, and while the ceremony crowning the world’s greatest player for the past 12 months was taking place in Zurich, a small corner of Sheffield was on the edge of its seat.
For Sheffield Wednesday’s Jose Semedo, the ceremony was a big night. He had a personal stake. The veteran midfielder was looking on hoping that Cristiano Ronaldo would equal Lionel Messi’s record and pick up the golden ball for the fourth time.
But why would a man who lives over 1200 miles from Madrid take such an interest? On the surface, nothing other than a common nationality linked him with Ronaldo.
Beyond the surface, the link is not so tenuous. The two have a friendship that goes back to their childhood, as both young men began to furrow a path towards a career in professional soccer at Sporting Lisbon. Ronaldo was plucked from picturesque Madeira whilst Semedo moved from the tough streets of Setubal, with both youngsters forced to adjust to living away from home for the first time. With the bright lights of Lisbon as their setting, the two began to forge a friendship, one that’s since developed into the pair becoming “brothers.”
“At this time, Ronaldo too had to dig deep and find his own identify and mental toughness,” Semedo explains. “When he first arrived in Lisbon, Ronaldo probably had a greater challenge than mine in adjusting to his new life. It was extra hard for Ronaldo because his Madeiran accent was so different, not everyone could understand him. Combine that with being alone for the first time in your life (like myself) and coming to a new city: you have to be tough.
“The most prominent risk both Ronaldo and I took at a young age was to leave our home and go it alone. This was the biggest choice we had to make in our lives, probably. It would have been easy to choose not to go, because naturally for a young boy it is scary.
“His talent was clear to see from an early age. Everyone wanted to be around him because of his natural gift. Fortunately for me, we developed a deep friendship.”
Although their desire to develop as players they was similar, their playing styles were polar opposites. Ronaldo had his skill, pace and unerring ability to carve open the best defenses on the planet, while Semedo was a tough-tackling midfielder tasked with winning the ball with minimal fuss and passing it on to others. Still, both players have become firm fans favorites of their respective club’s supporters.