The United States is one of the few countries in the world where soccer doesn’t play a massive role in the lives of nearly every citizen. Everywhere else, the sport is looked upon as almost a religion. During big games, businesses close and cities shut down as entire nations stare transfixed at the 11 heroes who play their hearts out for their countries. This is why soccer — or futbol — is called “the beautiful game.”
Of all the major players in the world of professional soccer, Cristiano Ronaldo stands out as one of the greatest to have ever stepped foot onto a pitch. It’s easy to take one look at him and think he’s nothing more than an overly wealthy and pompous athlete in it for the fat paycheck. But, a deeper dive indicates otherwise.
1. Scientists studied the way Ronaldo moves because it’s so unlike other players. They determined that when he makes quick jumps into the air, he actually moves at a faster pace than a cheetah! Even when he was young, it was evident he was special…
2. Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro grew up in Madiera, Portugal, in a struggling lower-class family. Making it as a professional soccer player was one of the only ways out of poverty, so that’s the path he pursued against all the odds.
3. At 12 years old, Ronaldo’s family uprooted their lives and moved to Lisbon, Portugal’s capital. The whole purpose was so Ronaldo could play for the national junior teams and develop his skills.
4. A racing heartbeat at age 15 landed Ronaldo in emergency surgery. If he went even a little longer with it unchecked, he wouldn’t have become a professional player, and the world would never have known the great CR7.
5. At the ripe young age of 13, Ronaldo was paid nearly $1,700 to play for Lisbon’s Sporting CP team. This was a massive amount for such a young kid, but it was peanuts compared to what he would eventually earn.
6. Ronaldo finally reached the big leagues in 2003 when Manchester United, one of the biggest teams in the world, bought his contract for over $15 million. Needless to say, he quickly earned his keep, scoring goals and helping the team win countless matches.
7. Fellow soccer player Albert Fantrau was beside Ronaldo for every step of his ascent to soccer godhood, but he never managed to become as successful. Ronaldo never forgot his pal, and when he started earning the big bucks, he took care of his friend’s finances.
8. Ronaldo refuses to drink alcohol, and the reason why is heartbreaking: His father died of alcoholism at the age of 52, and although Ronaldo offered to pay for rehab on multiple occasions, he was just too far gone to help himself.
9. Ronaldo’s talents have truly paid off tenfold. In 2017, Forbes estimated he made a total of $93 million, and his total net worth is said to be over $400 million. Not bad for a poor kid from Portugal.
10. Ronaldo’s son, Ronaldo Jr., lives in Madrid, Spain, where his mother cares for him. Interestingly, the identity of his son’s mother is not known, but it’s rumored he paid her millions of dollars to ensure he received full custody.
11. A guy with the looks and wealth of Ronaldo doesn’t come without a plethora of admiring women, some equally as famous. Rumors have connected Ronaldo to both Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, but no one can say for sure except them.
12. Eventually, he made a public commitment, as Ronaldo and his girlfriend, Georgina Rodriguez, had their first baby, a daughter, in 2017. The two planned on raising the little girl and all three of Ronaldo’s other children together.
13. Soccer isn’t the only bucket Ronaldo has a hand in. The guy loves fashion, and he has his own boutique, CR7, full of items he models himself. It’s run by his sisters, and the biggest collection the store has is men’s shoes.
14. The mark of a legend is to have a statue erected, but Ronaldo has taken it one step further: the guy has an entire museum dedicated to him and his achievements in his hometown of Funchal, Madiera, called Museu CR7.
15. When he’s not running up and down the field dribbling past defenders and scoring goals, Ronaldo loves to show off his skills in the kitchen — and he always snaps a photo for his social media followers afterward.
16. You can imagine a guy with Ronaldo’s level of money has a boatload of nice cars, and you’d be right. His most expensive whip is none other than the Bugatti Veyron, which costs nearly $2 million.
17. Crowds love a player who can dazzle them on the field, and Ronaldo is certainly that. He has no shortage of jumps, twists, and dribbles that leave crowds in awe and defenders scratching their heads.
18. Ronaldo’s favorite soccer player growing up was Luis Figo, who was considered by many to be the greatest Portuguese player of all time. Until Ronaldo came around, of course.
19. A player as talented as Ronaldo, of course, has a nemesis. That person is Lionel Messi, another one of the world’s greatest players. The two are always neck and neck come awards season, and when you watch either play, it’s almost impossible to pick the better player.
20. For those who think he might hoard all of his money for material things, in 2012, Ronaldo donated over $1.5 million to help fund schools in Gaza. The money came from selling one of his European Golden Shoe Awards (won for having the most goals in a season).
21. After a tsunami devastated Indonesia in 2004, a video began circling the internet of a young boy wearing a weathered Ronaldo jersey. Ronaldo auctioned off many of his belongings to help, and he was eventually able to donate $75,000.
Cristiano Ronaldo truly does care about his community and does whatever he can to give back. While this might seem surprising, it’s actually a common trait among the great athletes…
1. LeBron James: Through his LeBron James Family Foundation, the basketball legend has donated millions toward improving living and education standards for the people of Akron, Ohio, his hometown.
But what is perhaps James’ most significant act of giving is the creation of his I Promise School. After learning of Akron’s high school dropout rate, James created the IPS to provide a stable education for at-risk children.
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2. Serena Williams: Like James, Williams has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in youth scholarships, but she’s even worked to build schools in underprivileged nations like Jamaica and Kenya.
Not only that, but Williams is also active in violence prevention. Her Serena Williams Fund is dedicated to assisting families and communities affected by senseless violence.
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3. J.J. Watt: While he’s definitely not the type of guy you’d want to cross on the football field, as president and founder of the Justin J. Watt Foundation, the football star has raised over $1 million toward helping children get involved in athletics within a safe environment.
Watt’s giving doesn’t stop there, as in 2017, he was a major part of Houston’s Hurricane Harvey recovery effort. Through crowdfunding and his own personal donations, Watt raised almost $40 million for the city and was subsequently named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
4. Maria Sharapova: Tennis and charity seem to go hand in hand, as, like Williams, Sharapova is also actively engaged in helping those in need. Through her Maria Sharapova Foundation, the legendary Russian tennis player has donated over $500k to communities affected by the Chernobyl disaster.
Sharapova is also heavily involved in global disaster recovery and tragedy relief efforts as well. The tennis star donated $50k to those affected by the Beslan school hostage crisis in 2004 and even aided fellow competitor Monica Puig in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
5. Russell Wilson: The star quarterback holds dozens of charity events in and around Seattle, and in 2016, his Wilson’s Why Not You Foundation raised $1.06 million for the Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Strong Against Cancer initiative.
While Wilson’s charitable contributions are no doubt impressive, the personal relationships he’s forged through his philanthropy are just as valuable. When he isn’t training or prepping for game day, Wilson makes weekly visits to Seattle Children’s to spend time with sick fans.
6. Kristi Yamaguchi: A shift from figure skating to charity work may not seem like a natural transition, but the 1992 Olympic champion has taken to her new passion in stride. Yamaguchi works to provide literacy programs to underserved children nationwide.
Yamaguchi has also expanded into the world of fashion through her active lifestyle brand, Tsuya. The clothing line is designed to empower women to look and feel their best, and a portion of the proceeds from Tsuya sales are donated to her youth literacy efforts.
7. John Cena: The WWE legend is one of the most charitable athletes out there, having granted the most wishes for the Make-A-Wish Foundation with 500… and counting!
Even in the ring, Cena has been an ambassador for numerous charities. From late 2011 to early 2012, Cena sported a “Rise Above Hate” shirt to promote the “Be a Star” anti-bullying campaign, and during his October appearances, he wore pink in support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
8. Mia Hamm: For a woman that’s done it all both in and out of the sports world, Mia Hamm’s charitable pursuits are no less impressive. As the founder of the Mia Hamm Foundation, the soccer legend strives to empower and create athletic opportunities for young women.
Mia Hamm Foundation
Since her brother’s death from aplastic anemia in 1997, Hamm has also been an advocate for the demand for bone marrow and cord blood transplants in the U.S. Through her foundation, Hamm encourages enrollment in the national bone marrow registry.
9. Eli Manning: He’s won two Super Bowls and raised millions for causes like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Operation Smile, and the Wounded Warrior Project. Surprisingly, however, the future Hall of Famer’s mission of giving extends far beyond the borders of New York and New Jersey.
In 2007, Manning donated $2.5 million to the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson, Mississippi to create The Eli Manning Children’s Clinics. The quarterback is also heavily involved in his hometown of New Orleans, having assisted in the delivery of 30,000 pounds of relief supplies following Hurricane Katrina.
10. Colin Kaepernick: There’s no denying the good that Kaepernick has done since taking a stand against injustice in 2016. The former NFL star pledged to donate $1 million to “organizations working in oppressed communities” and has since encouraged other celebrities to do the same.
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Kaepernick’s philanthropic efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, and since 2016 he has received numerous accolades. In 2017, Kaepernick was named GQ‘s “Citizen of the Year” and honored with Sports Illustrated‘s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. In 2018, he was given the Ambassador of Conscience Award and the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal.