Book Review : Cristiano Ronaldo "The Obsession For Perfection"

Author             : Luca Caioli
Series               : Cristiano Ronaldo Series
Genre              : Biography
Publisher         : Matahari (Indonesia)
Pages               : 380
Translator        : Riana Irawati, Indriani Grantika, Octinur Alam
Published date : August 2014 in Indonesia

In the second chapter, it is revealed that Ronaldo could have been born in France and played for them. His mother Dolores, “had migrated to France at the age of twenty, where she spent three months cleaning houses.” Her husband Jose Dinis, a gardener by profession, was going to join but did not get the requisite clearance and so she returned to her hometown – the remote island of Madeira, an Atlantic archipelago – some 860 kilometres from Lisbon.
This same chapter reveals that Ronaldo’s childhood was full of hardships. His small house leaked in a dozens of places when it rained. His love for football started as a three-year-old, playing the yard or nearby street. Returning from school, he neglected his homework, grabbed a yoghurt or fruit, climbed out of the window, and went playing till 9.30 p.m. At the age of nine years, in the 1994-95 season, he played for a local club Andorinha.
The words of his first coach Francisa Afonso are clairvoyant. “He was fast, he was technically brilliant and he played equally well with his left and right foot….” As a young footballer, Ronaldo hated losing and would cry if his team lost. Skinny and bony, Ronaldo’s exceptional skill and courageous temperament enabled him excel against older boys as well. As the author explains, “Street football had taught him how to avoid getting hit, sidestep the opponent and face up to kids much better than he was.” His fame spreads all over Portugal, and in 1997, at the age of twelve, he made his first plane journey during the Easter holidays for trials at Sporting Lisbon.
The obsession for perfection started when he was an apprentice with Sporting Lisbon. He lifted weights at the gymnasium, on some days till 1 am,  and trained with weights around his ankles to improve his dribbling. He practiced free kicks against a wall of life-sized targets. His first salary at the Sporting Lisbon academy was about 50 Euros.
The hallmark of this book is that it reveals the other side of Ronaldo’s life – the pranks he played (buying and eating chocolates instead of a proper lunch), the punishments and the ailments (his resting heart rate was too high and he needed laser treatment to repair it). His family life was also tough – his father was an alcoholic and his older brother Hugo is a drug addict.
In July 2002, Ronaldo, at the age of 17 years, eight months and two days, made his first team debut and never looked back.  The most interesting chapter is about the numerous European clubs, Barcelona, Arsenal, Inter Milan, Liverpool, Valencia and Atletico Madrid, who were trying to sign him. Ultimately, he joined Manchester United as the most expensive teenager in the history of British football. His transfer fee was 12 million pounds, and he got paid 150,000 Euros per month.
Ronaldo’s exceptional humanitarian gestures are also aptly revealed. In chapter nine of the book, it is revealed how Cristiano Ronaldo went out of his way to help a seven-year-old boy Martunis – a victim of the dreadful Tsunami which claimed 230,000 lives in December 2004 in south-east Asia. Martunis was adrift for nineteen days and survived by eating whatever he could and drinking sea-water, and was weak, dehydrated and covered with insect bites. He was wearing his favourite shirt, the Portuguese football team’s red and green strip. An emotional Ronaldo invited Martunis to Portugal to witness the national team playing where he handed over a cheque for 40,000 Euros, the money contributed by members of the national team. On June 11 2005, Ronaldo went to Banda Aceh, an Indonesian island ruined by tsunami. Shocked at what he saw, Ronaldo auctioned three of his shirts from Portugal and Manchester United, a pair of boots and a signed football and collaborated with the Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla to raise around 60,000 pounds to rebuild Aceh.
His football career with both Portugal and Manchester United is well-documented. His rise to fame in Euro 2004 and his tears when Portugal was upset 0-1 by Greece in the final are all shown. His commitment was exemplified when he played in a vital World Cup qualifier against Russia in September 2005, a day after he received news of his father’s death due to alcoholism.
The book is not just about his success with Manchester United. It reveals how he adjusted in England, the struggles he faced – like being accused of rape by a French woman in October 2005 for which he was later found innocent – and the media ordeal from the British tabloids after his alleged role in getting Wayne Rooney sent off in the 2006 World Cup. Ronaldo’s version is also shown; he texted Rooney after the game to eliminate any misunderstandings. The book shows that this incident helped him mature as a player. The role of Alex Ferguson in making Ronaldo a complete team man is also well-documented.
The highlight of the book is the detailed focus on important incidents in Ronaldo’s life, which are told from an insider’s view point. His tears of happiness when, even though his penalty kick was saved in the 2008 UEFA Champions League final, his club Manchester United went on to win the title, his speech after receiving the FIFA World Player of the year award from Pele in 2008, and the dream final in Rome against Barcelona in 2009.
Finally, the book focuses on behind-the-scene activities that led to his transfer to Real Madrid for 80 million pounds, which was officially announced on June 11 2009. It also shows the hysteria at the Bernabeu when he arrived to sign for Real Madrid. The book then traces his career with Real Madrid, his intense rivalry with Lionel Messi, his frustration at being regularly overtaken by Messi for the World Player of the Year award, and his relationship with Jose Mourinho.
The closing chapters are very fascinating as they document his passions and obsessions. His love for table tennis, tennis and music, and his family home at Madeira are shown. His obsessions for fitness and to ban cigarette smoking are written about in detail. There is also a thoughtful chapter in which three journalists  -a Portuguese, an Englishman and a Spanish-Argentine – discuss Ronaldo’s future and how he will fare when he loses his cutting edge – his speed. Overall, it is a delightful and thought-provoking book about a global super star with many critical insights and also a lot of compassion.


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