By Grace Chingoma
GOVERNMENT has asked Brazilian and Barcelona legend Rivaldo to use the vast network he established during his successful dance with European football to open avenues for talented Zimbabwean footballers to ply their trade in the world’s best leagues.
The 45-year-old, one of the finest players of his generation who won the 1999 Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year and was named a member of the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team in 1998 and 2002, is one of the best footballers to visit this country. Rivaldo, who arrived in Harare on Monday night to a hero’s reception, is an iconic football superstar.
l He scored 35 goals for Brazil, including some spectacular strikes, and remains the seventh highest goal-scorer for the Samba Boys in history.
l He helped Brazil reach the final of the 1998 World Cup where they lost 0-3 to hosts France but was one of the star players for the Samba Boys, four years later, as they beat Germany in the final 2-0.
l He inspired Brazil to the 1999 Copa America title and was named player of the tournament.
l He helped Brazil win the 1997 FIFA Confederations and was inducted into the Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame.
l He spent five years at Spanish giants Barcelona and helped the Catalan side win league titles in 1997-1998 and 1998-1999 and the Copa del Rey in 1997-1998.
l He was voted La Liga Foreign Player of the Season in the 1997-1998 season and top-scored in the Copa del Rey in the same campaign.
l He spent another two years at Italian powerhouse AC Milan and helped them win the UEFA Champions League in 2002/2003, the Coppa Italia in 2002/2003 and the UEFA Super Cup in 2002/2003.
l He spent time at Deportivo La Coruna at a time when the Spanish side were a major force in the game.
l He won three straight league titles at Greek football powerhouse Olympiakos where he was named the league’s best player in 2006 and 2007.
Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane revealed that Rivaldo will assist players to get overseas moves.
“Before this conference, we had a very brief discussion between myself and Rivaldo as well as colleagues from ZIFA and SRC and, in our discussions, we, apart from the much anticipated match that is coming, whose preparations are now going to be hitting up tempo and speed, we also discussed the possibility of Rivaldo assisting with linking Zimbabwean players into the European leagues.
“We also discussed the possibility of Rivaldo and his team facilitating setting up a football academy in Zimbabwe. On his part Rivaldo, pledged his support to work with us and he is happy to look into the proposals,’’ he said. The Brazilian legend also paid a courtesy call on Acting President Phelekezela Mphoko who invited him to visit Victoria Falls when he returns with his family.
“Zimbabwe is a football country. I used to play football myself. Zimbabwe is a sporting country, our President used to play tennis and cricket and I used to play football and golf,” he said.
Rivaldo yesterday told academy players that talent alone is not enough for one to excel as a professional footballer. Addressing the Legends Academy football players at Hellenic Sports Club yesterday, after watching their exhibition match, he shared some priceless advice.
“I would like to congratulate all of you, all of you are talented,’’ he said through an interpreter, his loyal assistant of 20 years, Manuel Jose Auset Domper. Make sure you keep working the way you are working, you will get a chance to go and play outside the country in important countries, in traditional leagues so you are in the right direction to become big players. Talent is not enough, you will need to get the chance to show how good your talent is. Everything is possible in life”.
“Football is not easy, you will find a lot of difficulties around it. Remain humble, you will find the right way. I had a poor upbringing in Brazil but I have helped my family and a lot of people around the family. I am 45-years-old, but never drank alcohol or smoked cigarettes. I never went out at night and any things like that, but remained focused. If you follow my history on the internet, you will find I never had issues or problems and it is very important to take care of your name as well.’’
He said his boys also had dreams of being professionals.
“I have three boys, one professional at Dinamo Bucharest in the Romania league (Rivaldinho), and is a top goal scorer, another 12 years and 11 years, all of them are good players like me and they have the same dream as you to be a professional football players and follow my career.
“Fame and money were never the most important for me in my career,” he said.
He said Zimbabwean football will never be the same again after Barca Legends visit.
“It is a good opportunity for the country to have Barcelona Legends here for the match, this is very good for Zimbabwe. We were talking before this press conference about the challenges and opportunities to develop Zimbabwe football. We can do good things for the country,” said Rivaldo.
The Brazilian said he had been charmed by the way the country has welcomed him and will bring his family when he visits next.
“He has never received such a warm welcome in all his visits. He hopes his visit will develop local football and continue working with the Minister. It will be a good party in the country on November 5,” said the interpreter.
Barca Legends team’s representatives, Rayco Garcia, who facilitated Rivaldo’s trip and is currently staying in the country working on the modalities of the high-profile match next month together with his local representative Tich Mawoni, said the visit by a legend will inspire local players. The Herald