Midfielder Ronaldinho is considered by many to be the world's best soccer player. DW-WORLD.DE spoke with the two-time World Footballer of the Year about the World Cup, family and racism.
Unlike any other player in the world, Brazilian and Barcelona superstar Ronaldinho can dominate a soccer match. At the age of 22, he was on the Brazil squad that captured a record fifth World Cup title. Heading into this summer's tournament, the Selecao is again the odds on favorite, and the hopes of 170 million Brazilians will be riding on the midfield mastery of 26-year-old Ronaldinho.
DW-WORLD: Germany and Brazil have already been overcome with World Cup fever. Do you have it too?
Ronaldinho: I think the whole world has it. Everyone is already excited. I already have World Cup fever. We hear and see so much about it that it's impossible not to think about it.
What are your expectations from the World Cup in Germany in general?
Since I have already played in one World Cup, I'm familiar with the dimensions. Regarding the organization, I believe it will be well organized. I saw that last summer at the Confederations Cup, which was a kind of preview of the World Cup.
Brazil's national coach Carlos Alberto Parreira believes that every country will be fighting against Brazil, since the Selecao is considered the favorite. Which teams do you think will be the most difficult at the World Cup?
I think that all the games will be difficult, from the beginning to the end. It will be hard to advance past the first stage, because everyone will be aiming for us. They will all have a bit of extra motivation. I think that every opponent has to be paid attention to equally.
Ronaldinho (center) celebrates with Roberto Carlos (l) and Adriano in the qualifier against Venezuela
Which of your three group opponents -- Croatia, Australia, and Japan -- will provide the most serious challenge?
All three must be taken seriously and deserve our respect.
Will Germany have a chance at getting revenge against Brazil for the final loss in 2002?
(Laughs) It's possible. You never know what will happen. But I am not so worried about whom we play. The most important thing is that Brazil reaches the final and wins. That is our goal. I am not concentrating so much on our opponent, but on our own team.
What has changed between the 2002 squad and the current one, other than the coach and a few players?
The motivation is different. Those who won in 2002 know how good it is to win a World Cup and are very motivated. Those who haven't played in a World Cup have heard the whole time how great it is to win one. When these two groups come together, the experienced along with the young players, then I think that is the difference in comparison to 2002.
What do you think about the criticism your teammate Ronaldo has received lately?
I think that a player at his level, a player who fills his role every weekend, deserves a little more respect and a little more peace. But this is good for us Brazilians. It gives us more motivation at the Cup. And I think he will be one of the big names this summer.
You were named the world's best soccer player in each of the past two years. Recently you said that the ball was your "girlfriend" and that nothing in the world makes you happier than playing soccer. Is it really true that nothing makes you happier? What is it like, for example, when you lose?
That is frustrating. You practice all week, you give it your all and sometimes it's still not enough. I have always said that the ball is my girlfriend. As long as I play soccer, it will stay that way. There are also other wonderful things in my life. Everything has great importance in its time in my life. But when I have the ball, it's my girlfriend, and I treat her accordingly -- with gentleness.
Even a cardboard Ronaldinho (l) is popular in Barcelona
Barcelona fans say that you have brought magic back into the stadium. How did this close relationship with the fans come about?
I simply feel at home here. I play soccer here like I would in my own backyard with my whole family watching. My family consists of 100,000 people. There is nothing better than to feel loved by 100,000 spectators and to make them happy every match. Nothing is missing here. I do what I love to do most. And I make very many people happy doing it.
But there are also many ugly moments in soccer. During a game at Zaragoza, your teammate Samuel Eto'o threatened to leave the pitch because of racial epithets being chanted at him. What do you think of the problem of racism in soccer?
That is a bad thing. We are always trying to get the point across that that isn't the right way. We hope that the problem comes to an end as soon as possible. What happened to Eto'o made us very sad in Barcelona. The right thing is that fans go to the stadium to have fun, to support their club and to leave the stadium happy. All people are equal, regardless of skin color, race or whatever. Everyone does their best to make lots of people happy.
At the age of 26, you have probably achieved everything a soccer player dreams of. You are a World Cup champion, play in the largest soccer club in the world and have been chosen best soccer player of the year the past two years. Do you attribute your success to work, destiny or luck?
A little bit of everything. You have to have a little bit of luck, work hard, and I think, when the man up above says that will happen, then it will. When he says that it will happen, and you put your biggest effort into it, then it will be enough to work and the things will then happen.
Ronaldo's eight goals carried Brazil to the World Cup title in 2002
The 2002 World Cup was Ronaldo's. Will the 2006 World Cup be Ronaldinho's?
I think that it will be Brazil's World Cup. I don't think about standing out myself or being more or less the best. I simply want to do my best so that Brazil will be the World Cup champions.