I’m only human, so every once in a while I make the mistake of falling down the rabbit hole of the comment section of my articles or others around the big, bad internet. Luckily for me, I work in sports, which is only trivial compared to the horrors that come from all corners of the political hemisphere.
So I find it laughable when on anything that is related to soccer or the World Cup — which is happening in Russia right now as we speak if you live under a rock — makes its way on the web, you will find a dizzying amount of commenters (I’m talking hundreds on a single post) that say things like “not a sport.”
This is ignorance at its finest. Or maybe it’s just a solid representation of American fanaticism.
Of course, I picture many of these keyboard warriors have only watched two or three of the “Big 4” sports in North America; so anything different that provides an opportunity for them to expand their peanut-sized brains and culture themselves is immediately met with cynicism and sarcasm.
At the end of the day, it’s their loss because even if you haven’t watched a second of soccer in your life, you’re missing out on what could very well be a performance for the ages.
Portugal’s captain, talisman and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, at the age of 33, has won almost every major trophy that could be coveted by an aspiring soccer player. He’s won 26 trophies in his career, including Premier League championships with Manchester United, La Liga crowns with Real Madrid, his current team, and four Champions League titles between the two clubs. Three of them have come in the last three years with the Spanish giants.
He’s won the Ballon d’Or (that’s French for Golden Ball if you’re too lazy to go to google translate), which is awarded to the best player in the world, a record five times including the last two.
To put it simply for you beginners or trolls, that’s really, really good.
But much like the Argentinan wonder Lionel Messi, who is Ronaldo’s archrival on the world stage, success with his international club always cast some doubt on what his legacy would be once his playing days were over even though he is Portugal’s overwhelming leader in goals (85) and caps (152).
Portugal had never won a major trophy and there were many who believed that Ronaldo could not win the big game for his country. He made the final of the European Championships in 2004 but lost to Greece before a quarterfinal exit in 2008 and a semifinal loss in 2012.
After initial success at the World Cup, which included a fourth-place finish in 2006, Ronaldo and Portugal plummetted on soccer’s grandest stage as they were knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2010 while not even making it out of the group stage four years ago in Brazil.
Ronaldo had three goals in those three World Cups, which took 70 shots to accrue.
The narrative has suddenly changed in Euro 2016 in France where captain Ronaldo led Portugal from an underwhelming third-place finish in Group F to an unlikely championship with wins over Croatia, Poland, Wales and the hosts in the Final. Ronaldo had three goals in the tournament and was the lone forward named to the Team of the Tournament.
Now, what else does the man who has almost every trophy and every honor in soccer need? A World Cup, and Ronaldo is stating his intentions early.
Through two games of Group B play in Russia, Ronaldo scored four goals, including a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw against Spain, on just five shots. He provided an early winner in a 1-0 result against Morocco on Wednesday morning to put him atop the tournament’s scoring list.
He’s outplaying Messi, who many consider being the world’s best, and single-handedly leading his nation to the cusp of the knockout stages where he alone is capable of carrying Portugal to new heights.
So do me a favor — well really, do yourself a favor — and watch the sporting event that has gripped 3 billion people around the world, especially on Monday when Ronaldo takes on Group B minnows Iran, and take in what could very well become one of the greatest performances at a World Cup ever. It won’t hurt, I promise.