Ron, 34, still keen for new frontier

From above: The star-struck pupils from Yumin and Chongzheng primary schools giving Cristiano Ronaldo their seal of approval after his visit to Yumin's school hall in support of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship. A drawing of Ron
Above: The star-struck pupils from Yumin and Chongzheng primary schools giving Cristiano Ronaldo their seal of approval after his visit to Yumin's school hall in support of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
From above: The star-struck pupils from Yumin and Chongzheng primary schools giving Cristiano Ronaldo their seal of approval after his visit to Yumin's school hall in support of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship. A drawing of Ron
Above: A drawing of Ronaldo by one of the pupils. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Cristiano inspires pupils during Tampines visit with his winning attitude and tenacity

He has won a truckload of trophies with four clubs, two major championships with Portugal, five Ballon d'Ors, and is one of the world's greatest footballers.

But, even at 34, after achieving almost unparalleled success for club and country in the modern era, Cristiano Ronaldo's relentless quest for more football achievements is showing no sign of abating.

The Juventus star, who recently lifted the Nations League title with Portugal last month, told a crowd at Yumin Primary School yesterday: "I always say the last title is the most important one because I always look forward to the next title.

"I'm an easy-going person. I like different cultures, I like to travel, I like to challenge myself.

"This is why I am now in Italy, a different journey, a different game, a different league.

"I like to win, I like to see myself in different scenarios. I don't like to be comfortable in one zone, I like to try other things."

Hinting at the possibility of Ronaldo attempting a final push to land a first World Cup title in 2022, his manager Luis Correia added: "He wants to win everything. In his career, he has decided to win, and is fully committed to help his team and teammates. I don't think any word except winning is in his head regarding the new season.

"He wants to achieve the next game and the next trophy. All the games you see him, he has the same willingness to win and help his team score goals. When he doesn't want to win, it will be impossible for him to play football."

Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was at his charming best as he mingled with 1,000 upper primary pupils from Yumin and Chongzheng primary schools during a surprise visit to Yumin yesterday. Capturing the moment is Tampines GRC MP Cheng
Ronaldo scores with his charm: Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was at his charming best as he mingled with 1,000 upper primary pupils from Yumin and Chongzheng primary schools during a surprise visit to Yumin yesterday. Capturing the moment is Tampines GRC MP Cheng Li Hui. The Juventus striker, 34, who is here to support the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship, fielded questions, showcased some football tricks and gave some insight into his life. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Ronaldo also gave 100 per cent as the special guest yesterday, when he temporarily transformed Tampines into Turin during his surprise 30-minute visit in support of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship.

His mere presence had some 1,000 kids from Yumin and neighbouring Chongzheng Primary who packed the Yumin school hall screaming his name at the top of their voices.

It is understood that Yumin was selected for the visit as a homage to Ronaldo's humble beginnings - he was born in Madeira to a part-time kit man and a cook, and had to share a room with his three older sisters.

Just like his illustrious career, Ronaldo did not fail to deliver when he arrived at 12.50pm dressed simply in an all-white ensemble of T-shirt, bermudas and sneakers.

Unlike the gawky teenager who had a limited grasp of English when he signed for Manchester United in 2003 as the then most expensive teenager in English football, he was cool and charming yesterday, fielding in fluent English questions from six lucky pupils.

Unlike the Portuguese Peacock who is known for prancing and preening on the pitch almost narcissistically, Ronaldo was approachable and affable as he freely gave out hugs and high-fives to the kids.

He said: "I started my football journey when I was 11, 12 years old. The most difficult part was to leave my family and try to be a professional football player.

"I was from a humble family, but my family always gave me the opportunities. My mum and dad said if you want that chance, go and try. So, I went to Lisbon and tried. I played for Sporting, my first club. I tried my luck and I got it.

"It was very difficult, I cried sometimes, it was tough. After a few years, everything changed. I was 16 when I got my first professional contract.

"To be a football player is not easy. But any work is not easy if you don't work and, if you don't concentrate. But I never thought in my mind to quit this beautiful sport.

"Whatever you want to be - a football player or a doctor - just believe in your dreams, focus because everything is possible. Never give up, never quit, try and try."

Ibrahim Zaki, a Primary 6 pupil from Yumin, was awestruck and inspired by Ronaldo's advice.

CHASE YOUR DREAM

Whatever you want to be - a football player or a doctor - just believe in your dreams, focus because everything is possible. Never give up, never quit, try and try.

CRISTIANO RONALDO, Juventus star, during his visit to Yumin Primary School.


NEW CHALLENGES

I like to win, I like to see myself in different scenarios. I don't like to be comfortable in one zone, I like to try other things.

RONALDO, on pushing limits.

He said: "At first, I did not believe he was coming because there are some Singaporeans who don't even know us. I thought he would visit a school that was good in football, and not an average one like us.

"I am very happy to see him in person. This is a very special moment for me. I admire him a lot because he is 34 and he trains more than the others to be so fit.

"I play football a lot as a goalkeeper and I hope to be able to save one of his shots one day."

Ronaldo was clearly in a good mood as he demonstrated some tricks with the football and shared openly about his hopes that his nine-year-old son, Cristiano Ronaldo Jr, can follow in his footsteps, and how he is undecided about adding to his brood of four children to reach his previous target of seven.

He also displayed his cheeky side as he was leaving the hall at 1.20pm by videobombing Yumin teacher Amalina Batcha Sahib and shaking her shoulders from behind.

The Manchester United fan said: "I just wanted to take a video with Ronaldo in the background and I didn't expect him to join in. It was a really exciting moment.

"I hope our students are motivated by Ronaldo because he showed that you can achieve great things with hard work, regardless of what background you come from."

Yumin principal C. Dimps Rao, an Arsenal fan, added: "We were wondering if our kids know him but, when we shared his videos, we realise many of them know the determination he had in becoming the world's greatest footballer.


The Juventus star showing a few tricks to thrill the crowd during his 30-minute stay.  ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

"He reminds us of our motto - We aspire, we strive, we achieve, we serve - and we thought we could use this visit for subsequent talks with our kids.

"Ronaldo strives, and he serves by giving back. He inspires many school children and is the epitome of being disciplined and a good role model for the kids."

This is not the first time Ronaldo has swept fans off their feet in Singapore.

Six years ago, he was also the marquee guest for the SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship initiative. Then, he visited Crest Secondary School in Jurong East.

In 2017, he made a pit stop here to visit Lim's daughter Kim, who had given birth to a boy.

For this trip, Ronaldo arrived on Tuesday and will leave tomorrow.

Those who missed out on a glimpse of the star can take heart as sources tell The Straits Times he is set to play at the National Stadium for the first time when Juventus take on Tottenham Hotspur in the International Champions Cup on July 21, a day after his former club Manchester United's clash with Inter Milan.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2019, with the headline 'Ron, 34, still keen for new frontier'. Print Edition | Subscribe