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The Cristiano Ronaldo Story
Edited by Ronaldo Attack
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Ronaldo and his parents
Ronaldo and his parents
Cristiano, who grew up in the working-class district of Santo António, three miles inland and a world away from the grand hotels that adorn the rocky coast, has only been back to the island on holiday. Only the more inquisitive tourists venture to the area.

His childhood home is perched on a hill overlooking a main road that winds through the island's hilly interior. The back wall of the now deserted house is crumbling. The wooden slats that serve as windows, have holes in them and the corrugated iron roofs needs attention. It is typical of the other properties in the ‘bairro' and worth less than £5,000.

Four brothers and sisters – Cristiano, Hugo, Elma and Katia – shared the humble abode with parents José Dinis and Maria Dolores. Cristiano first began kicking a ball on the patio when he was two or three. By the time he started at the local primary school in 1997, when he was six, his passion for the game was obvious.

Maria dos Santos, a teacher at the Escola Sao Joao, vividly remembers the distinguishing Characteristics of pupil number 587: “From the day he walked through the door, football was his preferred sport. He took part in other activities, learnt songs and did his work, but he liked to have time for himself, time for football.”

“If there wasn't a real ball around – and often there wasn't – he would make one out of socks.

He would always find a way of playing football in the playground. I don't know how he managed it.”

The mere mention of the former pupil's name at the school these days send the kids into noisy delirium. They are excited to see a recent copy of United Magazine and hurriedly leaf through the pages to find a picture of their idol. “Look, it's Cristiano Ronaldo,” announces one. “Cristiano Ronaldo!”

Unsurprisingly, Cristiano's popularity has soared following his stellar performances on home soil at Euro 2004, where Portugal finished runners-up to Greece. He may have been able to walk around untroubled during the Sporting years, but not any more. Cristiano is now the closest thing Madeira has to a pop star and when he returns for a short holiday after the European Championship, he decides it would be more convenient to fend off journalists at a hotel in Funchal rather than the new family home. He is also to be spotted handing out presents to poor children at charity events and featuring in a photo shoot with Miss Portugal for the best-selling local newspaper, Diario de Noticias.

“All the kids wore a shirt with his name on it during the tournament,” Maria says.

“They know Cristiano went to school here and think of nothing else. They want to be the next Ronaldo. It would be fantastic if he came back to visit them one day.”

Young Ronaldo
Young Ronaldo
Cristiano studied at Sao Joao at the same time as he played for Andorinha, his first club where dad Jose was the kit man. He was officially on the books of the amateur team between 1993 and 1995, from the ages of 8 to 10, but had started training with the side before that.

The club youth director Alvaro Milho remembers going to fetch Ronaldo in his car from the camshackle house on the hill. Sometimes I would find him asleep and have to wake him up,” he smiles. “So when I saw him play at Euro 2004, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.”

Understandably, Andorinha officials are delighted to have been put on the map by the club's former charge. The team were without a regular during Ronaldo's era but now president Rui Santos enjoys an office to himself and the club boasts a full-size, all-weather astroturf pitch.

A footballer like Ronaldo does not surface every day,” Santos says.

“The first time I saw him, I knew he was out of the ordinary – he was more developed than the other players, different. But nobody ever thought he would achieve so much so soon.”

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