While Miami waits for David Beckham’s next move in his quest for a Major League Soccer stadium, another international soccer superstar swept into — and over — Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday and announced that he, too, has invested in a local team and may even come out of retirement and lace up his boots.
Brazilian legend Ronaldo, the new part-owner of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, did a helicopter tour of the area in search of a stadium site and then told a few hundred reporters gathered at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino that he plans to “train a lot ’’ in the hopes he can come out of retirement at age 38 and “maybe’’ play a few matches for the Strikers late in the season.
He later told the Herald, “When I go back to Brazil, I will make a training plan looking at the possibility of playing one or two matches, maybe the final if we get there. Playing one game is easy, although I’d probably come out injured in the shape I’m in now. I want to take the training serious.’’
Ronaldo retired in 2011 and has been passing time with his business ventures and playing on a celebrity poker circuit. He partnered with the Strikers’ new Brazilian ownership group, and plans to spend considerable time in South Florida offering advice.
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Whether or not he winds up playing, his link to the team opens doors.
“Ronaldo’s connections will help us in many respects, such as sponsorships,’’ said team president Tim Robbie. “Nike was brought to the table by Ronaldo. We have others that have expressed interest because of Ronaldo’s relationship with the club. There are players that Ronaldo and his people are recommending to us that probably wouldn’t have any idea who we are if it wasn’t for the Ronaldo connection. If we have players coming to our club that have the Ronaldo seal of approval, that adds credibility to our roster.’’
Ronaldo also plans to open 500 soccer academies around the world, and the first will be in Fort Lauderdale.
“I think because of all I did, all the credibility I have, now is the time to take advantage and do things right, with love and care,’’ Ronaldo said. “The sport is growing so much in America, and this seems the right time for this project.’’
COPA CAMPEONES AT FIU
Meanwhile, at FIU, organizers of the inaugural Copa Campeones are busy preparing for Saturday’s match between San Lorenzo of Argentina and Atletico Nacional of Colombia. San Lorenzo coach Edgardo Bauza and players were at FIU Stadium on Wednesday and met with the media.
Pope Francis is a big fan of the team, which won the 2014 Copa Libertadores, but Bauza said he has never asked for divine intervention.
“I have never mixed religion with sport,’’ Bauza said. “I’m sure he’s too busy with other issues to be worried about us.’’
Players said they have to get used to playing on FIU’s artificial turf.
“I have never trained or played on that kind of surface, but we know it is harder and the ball goes much faster,’’ said midfielder Leandro “Pipi’’ Romagnoli. “Once we are on the field, our focus is on the game.
Event organizer Jose Marini Victorica said: “We’d like it to be an annual Classico that unites Miami with Latin American soccer.’’ Tickets start at $35 and are on sale through Ticketmaster, and at www.copamiami.futbol.