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At his peak, Cristiano Ronaldo was considered the best professional footballer in the world. He has made over 1,100 professional appearances and scored more than 800 goals. To see him play, you would say he was born for the game. But that would discount all the struggles and hard work he has gone through to become the player that he is.
Cristiano was born into poverty on the Portuguese island of Madeira. His mother worked as a cook; his father was a gardener. He shared a room with his three older siblings. His mother, Maria, remembers very well the poverty they lived in, along with her alcoholic husband. She planned on terminating her last pregnancy. Their poverty was too much, and her husband’s alcoholism was debilitating. Desperate, she went to the doctor, but he refused the procedure, and one of the world’s greatest soccer players was born.
Ronaldo’s soccer life began with a small club at the age of 12, but shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with a heart condition that should have ended his career. However, he underwent surgery to cauterize multiple cardiac pathways and resumed training a few days later.
At age 16, he left school to focus on soccer full-time. Soon, he was moving up the ranks, getting noticed by scouts in the premier league. He had incredible quickness with the ball and was the type of player a club could build an attacking style around. He signed with Manchester United at age 18.
With his success in the league came big paychecks and fame. But he never forgot his humble beginnings, or his mother’s sacrifice to raise him. She has been by his side throughout the entire journey. When asked by a journalist why his mother still lives with him, he said: “My mother raised me and she dedicated her life for me. She would go to sleep hungry, just to let me eat. We had no money at all. She worked seven days a week and nights as a maid to buy my first shoes so I could be a player. All my success is dedicated to her. She is my refuge and my greatest gift.”
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