Saturday, March 1, 2008

Joga Bonita

A mention of the world's most popular sport -- soccer -- will still elicit yawns or rolled eyes from most of the American population, but no matter what my pal Stu thinks, the game is beautiful.

Brazilian superstar Kaká, leader of current European Champions League cup holders AC Milan, is widely considered to be the world's best player by most soccer observers, with the possible exception of some disgruntled Mancunians who favor Portuguese international and Manchester United standout Cristiano Ronaldo.

But before Kaka, the player who captured the world's imagination was the irrepressible Ronaldinho, another Brazilian star who led his club, FC Barcelona, to the 2006 European Champions League title.

The Barca number 10 has lately been dogged by allegations of disinterest, hampered slightly by injuries and saddled with a persistent backlash after not following up his club success with a dazzling performance on the world stage at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Today, all that was forgotten, after a stunning, bicycle kick goal in a Spanish La Liga match versus Atlético Madrid brought back memories of Ronaldinho's most memorable scoring exploits.

Unfortunately, the goal didn't provide a win for Barca, and the Catalan giants still have some work to do to reclaim their standing in La Liga and Europe, but it was nice to turn back the clock for a moment.

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