After leaving Flamengo, Ronaldinho joined Atlético-MG before the traditional Brazilian Monday night football shows even had a chance to discuss the reasons for his exit. Not so brilliant was the decision of Galo’s president Alexandre Kalil to sign him, as even after getting the former Barcelona man to agree to a huge wage drop – he is rumoured to now be earning 25% of what Flamengo agreed to (but did not) pay him – chasing him sounds like madness at this point of his career.
Some may argue that Ronaldinho wasn’t that bad at Flamengo, and that before Vágner Love joined he was often picked as man of the match whenever they won – which says a lot more about Flamengo’s squad than it does about Ronaldinho – but his most notable appearance in recent seasons was when a girl was told to use his mask during one of Silvio Berlusconi’s infamous Bunga Bunga parties.
His new contract ends in December and you may think that even R49 – yes, Ronaldinho will wear the less-fashionable number 49 jersey at Atlético – will have no problems lasting just seven months. However, I’m here to prove otherwise, so here are seven reasons that explain why Ronaldinho won’t wait seven months to leave Belo Horizonte.
1. No beaches
This must be the first thing to pop in to everyone’s head when thinking of reasons why Ronaldinho could suffer at Atlético. Minas Gerais is Brazil’s most populous state without a coastline, and being the only landlocked state in Brazil’s affluent south and southeast regions has had a profound psychological effect on the mineiros. Trust me. I was born there.
As Minas does not connect with the ocean, the state is widely known for its agricultural vocation, and to other Brazilians the mineiro is seen as a hillbilly who doesn’t do much besides waking up early and milking his cows before sunrise. We’re hillbillies who go to the beach. Albeit not our beaches.
The coastline in the nearby state of Espírito Santo is home to some beautiful beaches and because of the large number of people who travel from Minas Gerais to get there, it is unofficially known as the Minas Gerais coast. Ronaldinho can hop on a bus and join his fellow mineiros on a long, exhausting trip through the mountains to the litoral. If he misses Rio de Janeiro, a quick excursion to Juiz de Fora could be an option. Although the city is in Minas Gerais, the locals are famous for their carioca accents, and are often referred to as mineiros who wanted to be born in Rio.
Brazilian football’s busy calendar and regular training sessions – not that Ronaldinho cares about training sessions – will make it painfully difficult for poor Ronnie to leave Belo Horizonte and head to the beach whenever he feels like it. Another problem is that unless his brother-cum-agent Assis is looking for a sponsorship deal with Cargill, he might not be too happy with the idea of having his favourite client related to cattle and crops.
Also, there’s the common notion that country life is not as exciting as it is in Rio de Janeiro. But luckily for him, alcohol can help make life a lot more exciting, and if you want alcohol, there’s no better place to be in Brazil than in Minas Gerais.
2. Large number of bars
What do you do when you don’t have beaches in your city? You drink. Belo Horizonte has the largest number of bars and restaurants per capita of any Brazilian city. They have even established ‘Dia Municipal do Boteco’ (loosely translated as ‘Pub Day’) which falls every year on the third Saturday of May, and the city’s 2.5 million inhabitants have more than 12,000 options of where to drink, in keeping with the state’s unofficial motto: já que Minas não tem mar, eu vou pro bar (roughly “seeing as Minas doesn't have any beaches, I'll go to the pub”). This is not a joke. Ronaldinho really has joined a club in a city with a nationally famous nightlife.
But that’s not all, Minas Gerais is also famous for their cachaça, Brazil’s national spirit. Cachaça is famous all over the country, but in Minas Gerais you can find a variety that you won’t get anywhere else, with prices ranging from $3 to $100 a bottle. And what is so wrong with this drink? Well, the hangover lasts from 3 to 100 hours – inversely proportional to the price.
Although I think that Pub Day and the nation’s widest variety of cachaça is justification enough, it is also worth mentioning that Belo Horizonte is host to Brazil’s most famous bar food eating competition, which always attracts thousands of tourists.
3. Calorific food
Food in Minas Gerais is great if you’re looking for a heart attack. With sausages, lots of oil and fried stuff, the state’s most traditional dish is feijão tropeiro, which goes well with everything from rice to barbecued meat. This famous dish basically consists of bacon, pepperoni sausage, olive oil, onions, garlic, beans, eggs, cassava flour and a whole lot of salt. Just the kind of food you wouldn’t want your star midfielder to be eating throughout the season.
The most famous feijão tropeiro in the state is found at the even more famous Mineirão stadium, called the tropeirão do Mineirão but it hasn’t been served since the stadium was closed for renovation ahead of the 2014 World Cup. When the slightly less famous Estádio Independência was reopened earlier this year, the dish once again became part of the city’s football culture, and although it’s not found inside the stadium, you can easily order it in one of the many restaurants nearby. It won’t be as easy as buying a portion inside the stadium, but Ronaldinho can just as easily join the other fans on matchdays and enjoy the pleasure of cardiovascular disease.
Another thing appreciated by locals is pão de queijo (essentially ‘cheese bread’), and if you are familiar with this particular snack then you are most likely suffering from an extreme case of drooling. It is made from tapioca flour, milk, oil, eggs and loads of cheese, and just like any other bread you can eat it any way you want, with any topping you want.
This kind of food was introduced to the state before even horses had been brought to the continent. The huge amount of calories served the founders with the energy they needed to leave the coast and trek through the countryside, traveling thousands of miles in search of gold.
That doesn’t really apply to Ronaldinho though. He’d sit right in the middle of the pitch if he could. Just bring him a table, a couple of chairs, a few musicians and a bottle of cachaça and you have Belo Horizonte’s most famous bar, right on the half-way line of the Independência.
4. Adapting from samba to sertanejo
Put together hillbilly people and hillbilly food and what do you have? Hillbilly music. Accustomed to Rio de Janeiro’s famous roda de samba and escola de samba, Ronaldinho will now have to get used to sertanejo – Brazilian country music.
The nightclubs in the city are already celebrating Ronaldinho’s arrival – one even published an advert saying that they’re waiting for him – but it may take a while until he finally learns how to properly dance to this music. Before showing his moves on Belo Horizonte’s dancefloors, Ronaldinho may want to try out some sertanejo goal celebrations, instead of his usual samba style, to please the Atlético faithful.
That might be asking too much from someone who struggled to adapt to Brazilian football after his return from Europe. In his first few months at Flamengo, Ronaldinho was sent off more than usual for a forward, and while some journalists dubbed him a violent player, Vanderlei Luxemburgo – their coach at the time – pointed out that he was still adapting to the way football is played and refereed in Brazil.
5. Local women
Brazilian women can be very controlling, so in order to hold on to their cowboys in Minas Gerais they like to take care of their bodies. That’s one of the reasons that made the mineiras, alongside women from central-west city Goiânia, widely known for their beauty. Imagine the stereotype of the Brazilian woman you have and consider what you have just learned about women from Belo Horizonte. Now imagine how Ronaldinho is going to behave amongst them. What if I told you that Belo Horizonte has 150,000 more women than men? Things are starting to look promising for R49…
6. Top selling newspaper in the country
All these beautiful women will certainly give newspapers some great stories. But it’s too bad that a city with 2.5 million inhabitants doesn’t sell as many papers as in Rio or São Paulo, right? Wrong! Belo Horizonte – in fact it is Contagem, a smaller city in greater BH – is home to Brazil’s top-selling newspaper. With 300,000 copies sold every day for $0,12, Super Notícia is a UK-style tabloid. Not the friendliest media for a player who enjoys a good night out, is it?
Women won’t be the only reason for Ronaldinho’s name to crop up in local tabloids. They will be involved, but often it will be his team-mates that get him into the most trouble. If he is looking for a night out, Ronaldinho won’t have too much trouble finding the right company, as Atlético Mineiro also have Mancini and Jô in their squad.
The former was convicted for sexual assault while he was living in Milan; the latter just left Internacional after manager Dorival Junior had him training on his own after several incidents of indiscipline. In the beginning of the year when they were still involved in the first stages of the Libertadores, Jô left an Internacional training session claiming that he wasn’t feeling too well, and later that night – probably after taking some sort of miracle cure – Jô was feeling so good that he decided to throw a party that ended with a visit from the police. Months later, Internacional travelled to Rio de Janeiro to face Fluminense in the Libertadores round of 16, and after they lost the match he decided to ditch the rest of his team and spend the night out. They didn’t hear from him again until 10am the following morning.
But wait! There’s more! Rumours say that Atlético are interested in signing rotund forward Adriano once he’s fully recovered from his injury. Whether this is true or not, the fact is that president Alexandre Kalil confessed that he tried to sign Adriano when he left Corinthians but as the player decided to spend some days enjoying the beach in Búzios, the chairman gave up on signing him.
Whether it’s Jô, Mancini or Adriano that will be his wing-man we must wait to find out but without any beaches to relax on, Ronaldinho will definitely want to enjoy the intense local nightlife, with great food and drink, amongst beautiful women, while learning some new dancing moves, which will surely have him all over the local papers. It goes without saying that we can expect a horde of angry Atleticanos breaking through the walls of the Cidade do Galo to get Ronaldinho out of there by December.