For my 21st birthday I was whisked away on a weekday break to a health spar in Leicester. My ex-girlfriend (mother of my 2 boys) had arranged it, a chance to relax at the fantastic facilities, massage’s and train in the gym (which I was heavily into at the time). As we booked in, the woman showing us to our room said that the Brazil team are arriving later, I thought she meant ‘volleyball’ or something. But my partner confirmed it was in fact the national football team. “Shame you didn’t come last week” the woman remarked “we had the Manchester United team here”, “Glad I wasn’t here then, that would have ruined my birthday” I replied as a boisterous, young and passionate Liverpool fan. “You won’t see much of them though they have a separate part to themselves” my obvious glee having turned to a more gutted look.
Later that evening, whilst sitting down at the table eating my dinner, my partner said “Look it’s Ronaldo !!”. As I started to turn to look I had already began my “Don’t be so bloody stupid reply”. To my amazement it was as well, my eyes fixed on him permanently. There were about ten players in blue national team tracksuits sitting around laughing and joking. From what I can remember there didn’t seem to be many other football fans around, least of all ones that knew the Brazil squad. My knowledge of what the players looked like was not what it should have been at that time but I could still identify many. In reality which I was struggling to distinguish between, “Big Ron” could have been sitting there with the “Miss World” beauty contingent but this was the most famous player on the planet.
This was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss. Off I set, up to the room to get my camera phone which nearly 10 years ago wasn’t as good as you would hope for in the situation. As I arrived back into the foyer area luckily for me the players were still there. I jogged past Denilson (who at that time was in his prime at Real Betis) he was strolling up and down talking on a mobile phone wearing inexplicably socks with sandals. My partner had already spoken to the players and asked if she could take a photograph. I suppose if you don’t really know who someone is you can’t be affected, I could meet the most famous rapper or basketball player in the world but as it’s not my thing i could take it or leave it. It is fortunate she had done this because I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to say or if they would understand me. Straight over to Ronaldo I nervously walked and as quick as a flash (pardon the pun) is was done. He half smiled at me as I walked off, sitting relaxed in his chair. I had a million and one things to ask him but as I was still in shock, didn’t want to disturb him too much with he’s friends and the fact I can’t speak a word of Portuguese, somewhat stopped the questions from flowing.
I sent the picture to everyone who I thought my care, when I arrived back at my room. I no longer have the picture due to several changes of phones, had it have been now I could have backed it up onto my computer. As the break unfolded, I came into contact with a number of the players Roque Junior (former Leeds) sitting on a bench and Denilson again. Whilst training in the gym Cafu (former Roma and Milan) came in to use the stationary bike, a smile and a nod in my direction as I was the only other person in there. Ze Roberto (former Bayern) then entered to use the leg extension machine, I have never seen such definition in someones legs, seemed to have muscle upon muscle as he effortlessly lifted heavy weight. The strangest moment of all was when Juninho (former Boro) walked into the gym, he high-fived both Cafu and Ze Roberto, stood looking at me doing lateral raises (shoulder exercises) for about 10 seconds then walked straight back out. Every time I was in the pub there after and Juninho shoulder barged someone off the ball (which was hardly ever) I would claim to have taught him that. Watching Ronaldo and others play golf was like watching a Nike advert before my own eyes. At the end of our stay we were told that the team would be training that afternoon and we could watch, my then partner said she wanted to pick our eldest (only child at that time) up from school as he had just started. For some strange reason I gave in, missing the opportunity of a life time, convincing myself it may come up again. This is why she is now my ex (joke).
Couple of years later, I was up Birmingham and a man came up to me and said is this you. I looked rather nervous has he got his phone out looking for a picture. Thoughts of what I had done raced through my mind. The picture he showed, to my relief, was that of me and the great forward himself. A sense of pride having had the privilege to meet such a great player came over me. I smiled and said “Yes, I’m the one without the funny teeth”