Football: Ronaldinho converts ITE into his own hall of fame

Ronaldinho kicking an autographed football into the capacity crowd at ITE College Central's multi-purpose hall during his 15-minute appearance yesterday.
Ronaldinho kicking an autographed football into the capacity crowd at ITE College Central's multi-purpose hall during his 15-minute appearance yesterday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The ITE College Central's multi-purpose hall is usually quiet and empty, save for the occasional basketball pick-up games among its enthusiastic students.

Yesterday, however, it was packed to capacity with more than 200 fervent football fans, many of them wearing the familiar yellow jerseys of the Brazil national team or the red and navy blue of Spanish giants Barcelona.

For they were eagerly anticipating the visit of 2005 Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldinho, who was slated to drop by and promote his new e-scooter brand at the multi-purpose hall.

The former Brazil and Barcelona star was in town for a two-day stopover to launch his new football academy -the Ronaldinho Football Academy, in collaboration with S-League club Tampines Rovers and the International Football Group.

Even though the 35-year old arrived an hour later than his scheduled noon appearance, and uttered only a single line about how happy he was to be in town, fans were nonetheless thrilled to see the flamboyant footballer in the flesh.

Said 18-year-old Reshan Fadul, who arrived at 9am: "He is worth the wait because this is a big opportunity to see one of the biggest football stars in the world, and it is almost unheard of that you get such world-class players coming to Singapore.

"His dribbling and step-overs are great and his movement is so fluid, it's like water. To be able to see him, it's an honour."

During his whirlwind 15-minute appearance, Ronaldinho presented an autographed jersey to the college, where it will be kept on display, and kicked signed footballs to adoring fans in the stands .

One lucky owner of an autographed football was 10-year old Syaraf Ammar from Qi Hua Primary School.

He said: "I am very happy and surprised to win the ball and my legs were shaking. I was very nervous.

"I am a big fan of his and I watch him a lot on YouTube. I really like his personality because he is not arrogant and just the way he respects his fans, it's amazing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Ronaldinho converts ITE into his own hall of fame'. Print Edition | Subscribe