SINGAPORE — Cristiano Ronaldo was greeted by ear-piercing screams of delight from about 1,000 schoolchildren as the Portuguese football superstar made a brief appearance at Yumin Primary School in Tampines on Thursday (4 July).
Looking tanned and relaxed as he sauntered into the school hall, the 34-year-old player with Italian club Juventus grinned as he acknowledged the adulation from the kids and their school teachers.
He happily answered questions about him from the nervous students, and thrilled his young fans with a glimpse of his deft ball-control skills.
“I’m a very simple person, just like all of you,” said the man who won a record five Ballon d’Or awards for being the world’s top footballer.
“I like to be happy, I like to be healthy. Most of all, I like to be challenged. That’s what keeps me going.”
In Singapore on invitation of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship program, Ronaldo had also attended several private sponsor functions since arriving on Tuesday evening.
He is set to return later this month with Juventus, as the Italian Serie A champions are one of the four European clubs taking part in the International Champions Cup pre-season tournament at the National Stadium.
The other clubs are Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and Ronaldo’s former club, Manchester United.
It was United who plucked the then teenager from obscurity to superstardom in 2003, grooming the once-shy player into the fearsome goal machine that he still is.
Since then, Ronaldo has bagged three English Premier League trophies, two Spanish La Liga titles, five Champions League triumphs, a Euro 2016 trophy, an Italian Serie A title and just recently, the inaugural 2019 UEFA Nations League trophy.
He attributed a big part of his success to his loving family: his girlfriend, four kids, mother and siblings.
“They are always behind me in whatever I do,” he said. “We grew up not very rich in a small island, but they always told me to be myself, to believe in myself.”
And it is a similar advice that he gave to his adoring audience, encouraging them to not to give up on being themselves.
“It was tough for me at the start of my career. I missed my home, I missed my family, and I cried many times,” he said during a question-and-answer session with the event host.
“But with the help of my family, my teammates, I never gave up and kept working hard for my dream. So I say to all of you, keep working hard and never give up.”
Other Singapore stories: