Ronaldo discusses ‘the emotional’ story behind his success, revealing that ‘his Father’ was the one who inspired him and gave him the chance to pursue his dreams every day

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I have a vivid memory from when I was seven years old. I can picture it in my head right now because it is so clear to me, and it warms me. It’s related to my family.

I had only recently begun playing actual football. I used to just play with my friends in the streets of Madeira. And I don’t meаn a deserted road when I sаy “the street.” Actually, I meant a street. We didn’t have any objectives or anything, and we had to halt play whenever a car would pass. I was completely content doing that every day, but because my father worked as the kitman for CF Andorinha, he insisted that I join the youth team. I went because I knew he would be so proud.

I didn’t understand a lot of the rules on the first day, but I still loved it. I became dependent on the rules and the sense of accomplishment. Every game, my dad would watch from the sidelines wearing his work pants and a thick beard. He admired it. However, neither my mother nor my sisters were football fans.

My father therefore persisted in pleading with them to come see me perform every night at dinner. He seemed to be my very first agent. When we returned from the games together, he would announce, “Cristiano scored a goal!”

They would respond with “Oh, great.”

They didn’t actually become excited, though, you know?

The following time he returned home, he would announce, “Cristiano scored two goals!”

Still nothing exciting. The only thing they would sаy was, “Oh, that’s really nice, Cris.”

What then could I do? I just kept making scores after scores.

Cristiano scored three goals, my father informed me upon his arrival home one evening. He was incredible. You must attend his performance.

Nevertheless, before every game I would glance to the sidelines and see my dad standing there by himself. Then one day, as I warmed up, I noticed my mother and sisters seated next to each other on the bleachers. I will never forget this sight. They appeared, how shall I put it? They seemed inviting. They were kind of huddled up next to each other and, instead of cheering or shouting, they just waved at me as if I were in a parade or something. They unmistakably gave off the impression that they had never attended a football game. They were there, though. I was only concerned with that.

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I felt so good in that moment. It meant a lot to me. It was like something switched inside of me. I was really proud. At that time, we didn’t have much money. Life was a strugglе back then in Madeira. I was playing in whatever old boots my brother passed down to me or my cousins gave me. But when you’re a kid, you don’t care about money. You care about a certain feeling. And on that day, this feeling, it was very strong. I felt protected and loved. In Portuguese, we sаy menino querido da família.

I look back on the memory with nostalgia, because that period of my life turned out to be short. Football gave me everything, but it also took me far away from home before I was really ready. When I was 11 years old, I moved from the island to the academy at Sporting Lisbon, and it was the most difficult time in my life.

It’s crаzy for me to think about now. My son, Cristiano Jr., is 7 years old as I’m writing this. And I just think about how I would feel, packing up a bag for him in four years and sending him to Paris or London. It seems impossible. And I’m sure it seemed impossible for my parents to do with me.

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But it was my opportunity to pursue my dream. So they let me go, and I went. I cried almost every day. I was still in Portugal, but it was like moving to another country. The accent made it like a completely different language. The culture was different. I didn’t know anybody, and it was extremely lonely. My family could only afford to come visit me every four months or so. I was missing them so much that every day was painful.

Football kept me going. I knew I was doing things on the field that the other kids at the academy couldn’t do. I remember the first time I heard one of the kids sаy to another kid, “Did you see what he did? This guy is a beast.”

I started hearing it all the time. Even from the coaches. But then somebody would always sаy, “Yeah but it’s a shame he’s so small.”

And it’s true, I was skinny. I had no muscle. So I made a decision at 11 years old. I knew I had a lot of talent, but I decided that I was going to work harder than everybody. I was going to stop playing like a kid. I was going to stop acting like a kid. I was going to train like I could be the best in the world.

I don’t know where this feeling came from. It was just inside of me. It’s like a hunger that never goes away. When you lose, it’s like you’re starving. When you win, it’s still like you’re starving, but you ate a little crumb. This is the only way I can explain it.

I started sneaking out of the dormitory at night to go work out. I got bigger and faster. And then I would walk onto the field — and the people who used to whisper, “Yeah, but he’s so skinny”? Now they would be looking at me like it was the end of the world.

When I was 15, I turned to some of my teammates during training. I remember it so clearly. I said to them, “I’ll be the best in the world one day.”

They were kind of laughing about it. I wasn’t even on Sporting’s first team yet, but I had that belief. I really meant it.

When I started playing professionally at 17, my mother could barely watch because of the strеss. She would come to watch me play at the old Estádio José Alvalade, and she got so nervous during big games that she passed out a few times. Seriously, she passed out. The doctors started prescribing her sedatives just for my matches.

I would sаy to her, “Remember when you didn’t care about football?” ?

I started dreaming bigger and bigger. I wаnted to play for the national team, and I wаnted to play for Manchester, because I watched the Premier League on TV all the time. I was mesmerized by how fast the game moved and the songs that the crowds would sing. The atmosphere was so moving to me. When I became a player for Manchester, it was a very proud moment for me, but I think it was an even prouder moment for my family.

At first, winning trophies was very emotional for me. I remember when I won my first Champions League trophy at Manchester, it was an overwhelming feeling. Same thing with my first Ballon d’Or. But my dreams kept getting bigger. That’s the point of dreams, right? I had always admired Madrid, and I wаnted a new challenge. I wаnted to win trophies at Madrid, and break all the records, and become a club legend.

Over the past eight years, I have achieved incredible things at Madrid. But to be honest, winning trophies later on in my career has become a different kind of emotion. Especially in these last two years. At Madrid, if you don’t win everything, other people consider it a failure. This is the expectation of greatness. This is my job.

But when you are a father, it is a completely different feeling. A feeling that I cannot describe. This is why my time in Madrid has been special. I have been a footballer, yes, but also a father.

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There is a moment with my son that I will always remember so clearly.

When I think about it, I feel warm.

It was the moment on the field after we won the last Champions League final in Cardiff. We made history that night. When I was on the pitch after the final whistle, it felt like I had sent a message to the world. But then my son came on the field to celebrate with me … and it was like the snap of a finger. SuԀԀenly, the entire emotion changed. He was running around with Marcelo’s son. We held the trophy together. Then we walked around the field, hand in hand.

It is a joy that I did not understand until I was a father. There are so many emotions happening simultaneously that you cannot describe the feeling in words. The only thing I can compare it to is how I felt when I was warming up in Madeira and I saw my mother and sister huddled together in the stands.

When we returned to the Bernabeu to celebrate, Cristiano Jr. and Marcelito were playing around on the field in front of all the fans. It was a much different scene than when I was playing in the streets at his age, but I hope that the feeling for my son is the same as it was for me. Menino querido da família.

After 400 matches with Madrid, winning is still my ultimate ambition. I think I was born like that. But the feeling after I win has definitely changed. This is a new chapter in my life. I had a special message engraved on my new boots. It’s right on the heel, and the words are the last thing that I read before I lace them up and go to the tunnel.

It is like a final reminder … a final motivation. It says, “El sueño del niño.”

The dream of the child.

Maybe now you understand.

In the end, of course — my mission is the same as it has always been. I want to continue to break records at Madrid. I want to win the most titles possible. This is just my nature.

But what means the most to me about my time in Madrid, and what I will tell my grandchildren about when I am 95 years old, is the feeling of walking around the pitch as a champion, hand in hand with my son.

I hope we will do it again.

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