My Footballing Hero – Ronaldo

My Footballing Hero – Ronaldo

It all began with an innocent childhood session of cult videogame Sensible Soccer, when I signed a player relatively unknown to me. He was fast, had great ball control and was a brutally efficient finisher. I was hooked. Even in those early days of video gaming excellence, life proved to imitate art and I found the real Life version to be equally as thrilling a player, although I’m not sure he could bend the ball quite as well!!! He was the first footballer I idolised who I had no affiliation with through my supported team or nation.

When people hear the name Ronaldo, many think Cristiano, something of an injustice given how supremely talented the ‘original’ Ronaldo was. Take nothing away from CR7, but to me there will always be one Ronaldo, or Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima to give his full name.


It’s a real shame that many football fans think of Ronaldo as ‘that fat, goofy Brazilian with the crap haircut and dodgy knees’, but I have to question how many have seen the guy play. When he burst onto the scene as a teenager it was clear to see he was a special player, his speed, power and eye for goal made him a formidable opponent for any defence and he went on to win every team and individual honour going except inexplicably a European Cup(Champions League). His close control was simply ridiculous and he could burst past a man in the blink of an eye. Perhaps what made him stand out even further was the fact he always played with a smile on his face and when watching him play he just looked like a kid having fun on the pitch, doing what he loved best. I simply loved to watch him play at the peak of his powers.

He broke world transfer records when joining both Barcelona(47 goals in 49 games) and Inter Milan(59 goals in 99 games) and it was at the latter when his notorious injury problems first occurred. ‘Il Fenomeno’ was eventually transferred to Real Madrid for a then whopping €46m and it was here that one of my lasting memories of the man were created. Ronaldo became the 1st man to score a Champions League hattrick at Old Trafford on their way to a famous 3-2 win against Man United. It earned him the honour of a standing ovation from the home crowd and a place in my heart forever(as a delighted Liverpool fan!!!!!)

That night at Old Trafford – a magnificent hattrick performance

His record on the international stage was extraordinary, winning 2 World Cups and finishing as a runner up to France in 1998. Even then, Ronaldo could argue that had he not suffered a seizure in the run up to the match, he may have inspired Brazil to victory again in Paris. His 2nd World Cup triumph was record breaking in that he became the highest goalscorer in World Cup history, surpassing Gerd Muller’s 14. Prior to the World Cup Ronaldo had been written off as an overweight, past it, pie muncher and arrived sporting a ridiculous haircut, yet despite a clear loss of his frightening pace, he almost single handedly won the World Cup for Brazil. He finished his international career with an astonishing record of 62 goals in 98 games.

A must watch compilation of Ronaldo’s goals

As an individual, Ronaldo is one of only 3 men to have won the FiFA Player of the Year award 3 times, Messi and Zidane are his illustrious companions(Cristiano take note!!!) 2 of those were won before he even turned 21 but unfortunately knee injuries were to take their toll on the great man over the next few years and would prove to be a defining issue in his career. It is my belief, that without these injuries Ronaldo would firmly be placed as one of the very best of all-time. In my eyes at least, he is regardless.

Career stats

Club – 518 games 352 goals
International – 98 games 62 goals

Career highlights

2 time World Cup winner
Highest scorer in World Cup history
3 time and youngest ever FIFA World Player of the Year
2 time Ballon D’Or winner




My Footballing Hero: Andrei Kanchelskis

My Footballing Hero is an odd choice, in a team that dominated from the mid nineties full of stars Andrei Kanchelskis was a hard working winger who was often eclipsed by the man on the other wing Ryan Giggs.

Joining Manchester United for £650,000 from Shakhtar Donetsk in March of the 1990/91 season Kanchelskis did not making his debut until the penultimate game in the same season. The following season he became a first team regular playing 34 out of 42 league games in the last season before The Premier League came into being, A season where local rivals Leeds claimed the title. The following year he played a lesser role in the team due to injury and the emergence on Lee Sharpe but his contributions every chance he got Kanchelskis showed his potential.

A winger who defied the modern convention of a winger, Kanchelskis was a broad shouldered power machine who with the drop of his shoulder would leave his man for dead before either centering balls in to the on coming strikers or converting the chance himself. Also possessing a decent aerial ability he would draw his man under the ball before overpowering him in an aerial tussle.  The equivalent in the current team has to be Antonio Valencia although Kanchelskis possessed more composure in front of goal.

What stuck me first about Kanchelskis was his pace, here was this stocky winger who looked like he would flatten a man rather than outpace him who all of a sudden went like someone shoved a rocket up him! The acceleration was frightening to watch so god knows what it was like to play against it, couple that with his sheer desire to have possession of the ball for the entire 90 minutes which sometimes entailed him running the length of the pitch to regain possession of the ball was something that excited the young me watching him. When United were playing he was always the first name I looked for on the team sheet next to what later became his trademark number 14 (which didn’t become his until 1993/94), a number that still adorns my United shirts now even though its my name and not Andrei’s that is above it. I always used to demand the number 14 when I used to play even though I was a forward, people used to say “ahh Cruyff” nope KANCHELSKIS! I am also not ashamed to say I copied his raised arm celebration as I thought it was ever so cool and modest!

I was shocked and upset when United sold him to Everton after reportedly having a fallout with Sir Alex and even more disappointed when he turned up in a City shirt 6 years later. But he still remains my hero and the only player to score in the Merseyside, Manchester & Glasgow derbys as well as represent 3 international teams.

My Footballing Hero – François Sterchele

At Sat In Row Z we breathe football. We have those players who leave memories etched so deep in our mind it’s like it only happened an hour ago. In this series we will try and introduce you to some of them.

First up Annelies tells us about her footballing hero: François Sterchele


He Was My Maradona

We all know Maradona. A football legend. Loved by probably every football fan alive on the planet when he was running on the pitch. He stole hearts, made girls have crazy dreams about marrying him and changed football. We had more footballing legends in the past. Think of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo (the real one…) or George Best. We don’t have to look back if we think about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for example.
But who was my Maradona? And what’s the story behind my football hero?

It all began when I was at primary school. I played football during pauses with my friends. We were at the age when we had a bright imagination and were able to think we are a football legend during our games. Most kids fought to be Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, Thierry Henry or some other footballing genius at a big club. I wasn’t one of those. No. I could always be my hero without being afraid. I could play as my idol because he was ‘just a guy at a Belgian club’. My football hero was François Sterchele.
Sterchele was a Belgian striker. He played his last match in the colours of Club Brugge. His footballing career began in fourth division. Sterchele played for teams like Leuven, Charleroi, Beerschot and Club Brugge. He ended up in the Jupiler Pro League with Club Brugge in 2007. I followed Sterchele since he signed for Leuven. Watching him live was a hard task, but I managed to see him a lot. His days at Brugge were the best to me. I don’t live far away from the city and tickets were cheap enough.

But why am I writing this in a past tense?
8 May 2008. Thursday. I’m busy giving a speech on François Sterchele at school. It’s an assigment. Talk about your idol. So there I am, talking about my favorite striker.
Meanwhile, a lot has happened. I never checked the news before I left for school and I still don’t. I check the news when I’m back from school, and I wished I never watched it that evening. My hero, my idol, my everything. He died. François Sterchele, aged 26, died in a car crash at 3AM. I couldn’t believe it. I even checked the calendar. It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. The only footballer I liked…died. And I was only ten years old. The world meant nothing to me anymore. I was heartbroken, sad, angry, desperate, confused, quiet, pissed and furious at once. I could not longer accept anything that has something to do with football. I even ignored Manchester United, the team I was born to support, for three weeks. I ignored Club Brugge for five years. To me, the club wasn’t the same without François Sterchele. Football changed. I changed. Nothing will ever be the same.

10 May 2008. Saturday. I decide to go and see Club Brugge’s final match of the season. They take on Westerlo at home. A tribute to François Sterchele was held by both teams and 26.000 spectators. I was one of them and I cried my heart out. The home team carried a huge banner with a photo of my idol on the pitch. I sing ‘You’ll Never Walk’ Alone together with the stadium and chant Sterchele’s name during the 23rd minute of the match. François played with this number on his shirt and it still is a tradition not to give the number 23 shirt to someone else. Even the 23rd minute remains the most special minute in a game. Even after five years! Club Brugge wins 4-0, the best scoreline the club has had that season. Afterwards, two moments of silence take place and the Sterchele banner reappears. Also one of Sterchele’s former clubs, Charleroi, pay a tribute to the Belgian footballer with Italian roots. They lay down flowers by a number 23 kit. Beerschot, where Sterchele became top goalscorer in 2007, do their warming up wearing a shirt with his photo on it.

One year after his death, thousands of fans visited the Club Brugge ground to lay down a card or flowers for the striker. Sterchele got remembered once more during a match. In 2009, when Club Brugge played Standard Liége on 9 May. Every year, on 23 July, the Copa Sterchele takes place. A friendly match between two former clubs of François Sterchele, mainly Beerschot and Club Brugge. Club Brugge supporters also hold up a banner for Sterchele every year during the match closest to 8 May. Last year, the supporters were asked to put a flag or scarf outside their window to honour François Sterchele.


How did I get over it?

I still haven’t . But I managed to get back to football three weeks after the death of my first ever favourite footballer. I missed the game and I couldn’t live without Manchester United. We won the Champions League in 2008 and it was probably the main reason I got back into football so fast. I left Club Brugge behind for five years because I couldn’t see the team without François Sterchele. But after a period of wide interests in different Belgian clubs, I came back to where it all begun. I realized that ignoring Brugge was the worst choice I ever made. I felt guilty for letting them down. I came back to their Blue Army for Sterchele. I want to be proud again. Proud to say he is my football hero. He keeps me going.

François Sterchele is my Diego Maradona. My Lionel Messi. My past. My present. My life. My number 23.
All those you lost in your life. Friends, family, pets, idols. They are gone…but never forgotten!