Ronaldo recalls his seizure before ‘98 World Cup final
In the countdown to Sunday’s Clásico, AS caught up with Ronaldo Nazário, who happily chatted about Real Madrid, Barcelona, Vinicius and Benzema.
Ronaldo Nazário has a packed agenda at the best of times and more so when he also has a new documentary to promote. But the Brazilian legend was happy to sit down for a few minutes with AS to talk about E Clásico, the World Cup, Vinicius, Benzema and the Ballon d’Or as well as his most recent project. His new documentary The Phenomenon (DAZN) was premiered last night at Callao Cinemas in Madrid before the global premiere next Friday 21 October. Life may be hectic right now but Ronaldo, as always, was all smiles and only too happy to chat.
How's life going?
Good! It’s treating me well! To tell you the truth, everything is perfect. It’s been a tough year with two promotions (Valladolid and Cruzeiro), I’m very happy, but I have a lot of work... Today (yesterday) was a really nice day for the premiere of the documentary, but also a long day.
Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima or The Phenomenon. What is the history of your nickname?
The original nickname comes from Italy. In Italian, it would be Il Fenomeno, but whatever you want... I adopted it with great enthusiasm, but I must confess that at the same time it caused me a lot of pressure for many years! (laughs)
What were you called during your childhood?
Dadado. That was the nickname my brothers gave me. It was the first word I could pronounce so it stayed. Today I use it for my online video game competitions. I’m a big fan.
What secrets will the new documentary The Phenomenon reveal about Ronaldo that nobody knows?
There are a lot of anecdotes in it that have never been published before and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Above all there is a lot of drama. From the final of the World Cup in France 98 with what happened throughout the day until we got to the stadium... The match, losing the final to France... Back then, when I thought things were going to get better, they actually got worse later with injuries...
What happened that day? Were you close to death?
Well, yes... I went to take a nap as usual before each match and woke up shortly after surrounded by everyone in my room... There they told me what had happened to me. The famous seizure didn’t scare me because I was thinking about the final and I wanted to play it. When I was taken to hospital, we took great care to do all the necessary tests to be calm. Once any health problem was ruled out, I ran to the stadium. I wanted to play... It was a World Cup final! How could I miss it!
Was it the hardest episode or the limit of your career?
Yes. Especially since it was the beginning of the internet era. Information travelled very fast. And we were learning from all of this. As you know, the World Cup is a huge event and is followed all over the globe. So yes, it was very hard.
Brazil lost that final, but you won two World Cups...
Yes. That’s what it’s about. Telling the story of my entire career with the drama of injuries, recovery, the threat of not being able to play football again... My injury was very serious. There was no background, no history or clues about how to cure it... And yes. In the end we won the World Cup in Korea and Japan even though I had very bad memories of France. That experience scared me, but hey, I found solutions along the way. We tell everything in the movie.
We also learned about your fear of airports. Do you still suffer from that?
It’s something I carry with me always. The airport is the place in the world where I feel most vulnerable. I’m in a position whereI am known all over the world, so I still carry the trauma a bit, but being with people, whenever I can, is what I like the most. It is true that at first it was crazy. And when I played, we weren’t very protected either... The truth is that they just threw us there in, right into the middle of the crowd! (laughs). But now, yes, years later, we try to find solutions to escape from the crowd.
It’s El Clásico on Sunday! Who do you think will win?
El Clásico is El Clásico. Real Madrid have the advantage of playing at home. They have a brilliant side - like Barça, who are also a great team this season. I’ve already suffered with my team against them at Camp Nou; also when they beat us 0-4... I guess Real Madrid has a bit of an advantage because they play at the Bernabéu. It’ll be a nice game to watch.
Should Vinicius keep doing his dance?
Yes. I think Vinicius has to keep dancing. It has been a completely unnecessary controversy, as I explained in a tweet. His dance doesn’t bother anyone. His dance doesn’t kills anyone. Sometimes I did celebrations with dances... I did that rabbit celebration, silly celebrations... It doesn’t matter! It is such a special moment that you have to enjoy it. But not racism. Racism kills. Racism excludes. That is what we have to fight against.
One last question. There is talk of Karim Benzema as the next Ballon d'Or at Monday's gala. Deserved?
Yes. Fully deserved.
Thank you very much for your time and good luck for the premiere of The Phenomenon.