Brazilian Ronaldo hoping to make comeback with Strikers in NASL
Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo says he will attempt to make a playing comeback this spring with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the second-tier North American Soccer League.
The world soccer player of the year in 1996, 1997 and 2002, Ronaldo is now 38 and hasn’t played since February 2011 with Brazil’s Corinthians. He spoke at a news conference Wednesday called to announce he has become a part-owner of the Strikers.
Ronaldo said his return to the field will help the league and soccer in America.
Asked whether he would play, Ronaldo responded in English and said "that is not easy."
"I love to play," he said. "That was my big love. But when I retired, it was because of my body. I had so much pain and so many injuries. "It isn’t easy to get fit. I will try. I will train a lot."
Since retiring as a player, Ronaldo has become a part-owner of a marketing company called 9ine Sports and Entertainment, which represents Barcelona star forward Neymar and mixed martial arts fighter Anderson Silva.
He joins a team that lost to San Antonio in last year’s NASL final last season. Fort Lauderdale averaged 3,092 for home games, almost half the league average of 5,989.
NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson, who attended the news conference, said his league will soon challenge Major League Soccer, which averaged 18,704 last year. MLS plans to start a Miami team led by retired star David Beckham, who is trying to find a site in Miami to build a stadium.
"We just finished our fourth season," Preston said. "We have 11 teams. Our goal is to have 20 teams by 2018. Our goal is to line up against any club in the world by 2018."
The Strikers play in 55-year-old Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Ricardo Geromel, one of the team’s owners, said a new stadium is planned.
The Strikers, who open their season on April 4 against the New York Cosmos, said they will try to bring in players from soccer-skilled Brazil, using the connections of Ronaldo and their other Brazilian owners.
"We want to have all the best players," Ronaldo said. "But we don’t have the money yet. We have a budget."