Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed the moment he truly began to follow his dream of becoming the world’s best footballer – when his mum came to watch him play.
The Real Madrid forward has opened up about his childhood, which saw him fall in love with football on the Portuguese island of Madeira, before joining the Sporting Lisbon academy.
Ronaldo revealed it took him and his dad a long time to convince his mum to come and watch him – but when she did, it was a defining moment in his life.
Writing in the Players’ Tribune, Ronaldo said: ‘My father was on the sidelines at every match with his big beard and his work trousers. He loved it, but my mother and my sisters had no interest in football.
‘So every night at dinner, my father kept trying to recruit them to come see me play. It was like he was my first agent. I remember coming home from the matches with him and he’d say, “Cristiano scored a goal!” They would say, “Oh, great’, but they didn’t really get excited, you know?
‘Then one day — I will never forget this image — I was warming up and looked over and I saw my mum and sisters sitting together. I felt so good in that moment. It meant a lot to me. It was like something switched inside of me.’
In a wide-ranging article – which appeared alongside a picture of the footballer aged two – Ronaldo also reveals one of the most difficult moments growing up was having to leave Madeira to travel to mainland Portugal and join the Lisbon academy.
He said: ‘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 crazy for me to think about now. My son, Cristiano Jr., is seven as I’m writing this. 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.’
The Euro 2016 winner is now famous for his brilliant skills and remarkably muscular frame – but says the latter only came to being in his teenage years, when he became so determined to bulk up that he would sneak out of his room at night to train.
Ronaldo said: ‘I remember the first time I heard one of the kids say 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. Then somebody would always say, “Yeah but it’s a shame he’s so small.”
‘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 started sneaking out of the dormitory at night to go work out. I got bigger and faster. 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.’