In room 290 at a Parisian hotel on the eve of the 1998 World Cup Final, Ronaldo Luís Nazarío de Lima was convulsing on the floor and foaming at the mouth.
It was shortly after dinner time, and Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo’s hotel room-mate, had just finished shaving his teammates head for the final. As they turned on their discmen to listen to some samba, Roberto Carlos turned his head and saw Ronaldo seizuring. He ran into the hall, yelling “something’s wrong with Ronaldo! (A story he would later have to tell over and over again when testifying in front of the Brazilian Parliament).
After teammate Edmundo “O Animal” unraveled Ronaldo’s tongue, thereby preventing him from suffocating to death, everyone watched Ronaldo fall into a deep coma-like stupor, asleep like a baby.
Ronaldo was taken to a French clinic by Doctor Lidio Toledo, where he underwent cardio logical and neuro examinations. Cardiac arrest?! but he was 21 years old!
The exerted pressure Ronaldo constantly placed on his knees was beyond what his body could tolerate. In an athletes career, the total amount of knee injections should be 4-5, while Ronaldo allegedly had 5 injections of the painkiller xylocaine for the 1998 World Cup alone.
Ronaldo was later heavily sedated, and on the day of the match, he was a ghost of his usually vibrant personality. The bus, that always carried the Brazilian national side was usually booming with music, yet on the day of the final, they rode in silence.
Ronaldo wasn’t included in the starting lineup, logically. This was a big problem for Nike.
The sporting brand had signed a $160 million dollar contract with Brazil over the course of a 10 year period. So who was going to be the one to put the star on the bench and take the blame for it? Nobody was having it. The medical team turned a blind eye and manager Mario Zagallo was given the clearance to start the famous number 9, who played to half of the potential he’d normally play under healthy conditions.
The Brazilians came on to the pitch, holding hands, to be defeated by Les Bleus 2-0 with two crafty headers by Zinedine Zidane .
Perhaps the saddest moment of the final was on the way back home to Brazil, where we see the 21 year old vibrant striker, presumably heavily sedated, holding on to the railings of the plane staircase, leaving everyone asking themselves where was their Ronaldo, and when was he coming home?
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