– Ronaldo toil –
“Cristiano learned the hard way, through adversity,” said Bacelar. “Things are too easy for young people today. There won’t be another Ronaldo come through.”
Ricardo Santos, 30, played alongside Ronaldo at Andorinha.
“Things were difficult at home for him. So he spent a lot of time in the street playing football,” Santos said. Ronaldo played with his friends and cousins, who were all older and tougher. “You learn other ways to play in the street,” he added.
The youths who play on the Andorinha pitch now dream of following in Ronaldo’s footsteps.
“Ronaldo is the best model,” declared nine-year-old Jose Pedro. “When I take a free-kick, I do exactly like he does. It always goes in.”
At the age of nine, Ronaldo joined the Nacional Madeira team. The rest is history. He was spotted by Sporting Lisbon, transferred to Manchester United as a teenager and then went to Real Madrid in what was then the world’s highest transfer.
Ronaldo now has more trophies and records than he can count.
“At the time, he was already special,” said Santos. “I remember one match and we were leading 3-0 when he went off with an injured head. In the end we lost 4-3.”
Everyone who knew Ronaldo says that he always had a ball at his feet. It was through non-stop practice that he became a superstar.
“Cristiano is never satisfied, he always wants to be better,” said his cousin Nuno Viveiros, who grew up in the same district and now looks after the Ronaldo museum in Funchal.
Having won the Champions League and national titles across Europe, a trophy with Portugal, for whom he will be the lynchpin at Euro 2016, “is the only little star missing” from his record, said his cousin.