Exactly 14 years ago, my Ronaldo story began — CR7 World Cup travel series

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Angela Akua Asante with crazy CR7 fans (1)

June 20, 2004, is a date I can never forget. There are moments that turn around your life forever. Portugal’s Euro 2004 clash against Spain was one of those. 

Today is 20 June 2018 and it’s a Wednesday; my day, so to speak, as I was born on a Wednesday (in Ghana’s day naming tradition, I am an Akua). On this day, last week, I added a new year in my life in the name of Bumblebee transformer doing the famous Cristiano Ronaldo celebration. On this day, 14 years ago, I took a new turn in my career.

Throwback to June 20, 2004: the day I first saw Cristiano… on TV!

I was just a teenager and thought I had my professional future sorted out. As a socioeconomics student, I was anticipating a career as a banker or a financial analyst — much to the pride of my parents. And then came that night of June 20. My brother and I were bored beyond belief.

Our summer vacation had very little to be excited about. We had waited throughout the academic year to finally enjoy a more laid-back schedule only to find ourselves completely stuck in boredom during evenings as our mom would ban us from playing noisy football in the living room.

“Let’s check what’s on TV,” we thought as we grabbed the remote control.

We tuned into GTV, the station of the nation. The pictures on the screen projected a beautiful pitch and a match that was already well underway. Unaware, back then, of how long a football game lasts, I could not figure out what stage the encounter was at. However, I remember the scores showed 1-0 in favor of “POR”. The other team was marked as “ESP”.

“So who’s playing? Is it not your country?” my mother asked. (A three-year-old me was certain, for some reason, that I was born in Portugal since I had a red and green winter wear; this and other major coincidences earned me that “unofficial Portuguese citizen” tag in the family).

“Yes, yes! it’s Portugal,” I replied enthused.

“Oh wait, who’s that guy with earrings and that tan? Look what he does with the ball. He’s so fast! And he dribbles so close to the white line yet the ball doesn’t go out.”

My junior brother added:

“I don’t know but he’s wearing number 17. Let’s call him ‘Le 17’, ok?”

You can call that “admiration at first sight”. From that moment, my dislike for watching football on TV transformed into curiosity and addiction. My entire football world revolved around Cristiano Ronaldo. I built it from scratch with him being the reason. After a year of self-training my native French ear to capture English commentary spoken with a British accent, to understand the rules of the Beautiful Game, and to simulate match reporting by covering my brother’s SEGA video games, a new passion was born: that of football journalism.

When you follow your passion and make a career out of it

Goodbye socioeconomics. And while I had buried, long ago, my other dream of becoming a professional female footballer, I began to foresee a new avenue for myself as a writer. Fast forward to June 2018.

As I’m typing these words, Cristiano Ronaldo has just led Portugal to a vital 1-0 victory over Morocco. The African contenders had the backing of the enormous crowd at the Luzhniki stadium.

I did not watch that FIFA World Cup game from the couch in my living room or from a pub somewhere in Accra, Ghana as I’ve so often done in my 10 years as a professional online football writer. No. I watched Portugal vs Morocco live from the match venue’s media tribune.

It has taken me about eight days to realize the magnitude of the adventure I’m living right now, as an accredited FIFA Media freelancer. I couldn’t dare dream this moment. How could I when there were too many doors to unlock before arriving at “Destination Russia 2018”? I will not forget, nevertheless, how Nsroma TV’s Nana Yaw Asiedu triggered my ambition to make it to Russia 2018. That was 52 weeks ago, during a birthday get-together in Accra.

Another person to thank is my English mentor at AIPS, Keir Radnedge, who guided me throughout the accreditation process. And this, in spite of the Ghana Football Association’s reluctance to assist me, in the first place.

The dream I never dared to dream has become reality. From being allocated a slot to apply on the FIFA Media channel on deadline day, to being approved by World Football’s governing body. From reshuffling priorities to accommodate my trip financially, to actually find myself waking up in Sochi, Moscow and soon in Saransk because I’m following the Portuguese national team’s group stages itinerary… It feels strange to have everything aligned, especially after a series of rejections on various fronts in the past few years.

In any case, I believe in following your passion. The creation of my fansite CRD7 (CRonaldoDaily.com), about two years ago, has elevated me to new emotional levels and helped me nourish richer relationships. Cristiano is the reason.

Some are CR7 maniacs like these awesome shirtless Portuguese supporters featured as this blog post’s main image. But I am not a maniac of Ronaldo. I am proud. Proud of him as a sister would be proud of the elder brother she wonderfully witnessed reaching for the skies across a spell stretching more than a decade. I feel in tune with his winning mindset. When I wake up in the morning, I think of winning at life and nothing else.

In the past 14 years since the creation of the “Ronaldo chapter” in my life, I have encountered uncountable lows. One thing this fantastic trip, to cover the 2018 FIFA World Cup live in Russia, underlines is this: do not quit when you fail. Hold on and keep believing in different ways to achieve that which you seek because it is possible. Before you move onto something else, make sure you have no regrets. And most especially, notice what lights you up and make plans to do more of it — regardless of what society thinks you should be doing.

I am not your average reporter if you’ve noticed. I grew in my profession to realize that I am more of a digital content creator with a particular interest in all things Cristiano Ronaldo. Being a CR7 fan is a whole lifestyle and I’m glad to be living it today.

A Ghanaian in Moscow

In Moscow, where I am writing this from, the dark at night is ephemeral. It enrobes the city into its black cloak around 10:00 PM local time and flees to make way for the light at 3:00 AM. I have not missed this stunning spectacle since arriving in Russia’s capital, from Sochi. I see all of it because I do not sleep at night; not because of insomnia, but because of duties I’ve chosen to fulfill as an on-site reporter.

I may very well be the only accredited Ghanaian journalist here in Russia who is covering the FIFA World Cup from the very start until the final. I arrived on June 12 and I shall leave right after the ultimate fixture. During these unforgettable 36 days that are unfolding, I might as well give back to my people in the Ghanaian media by contributing to their coverage with exclusive reports — even though these occur at odd hours in Moscow.

It is what it is. This is what I’ve chosen this summer and my passion for Cristiano Ronaldo is the seed that made it all happen. All the work I have put into developing my skill, all the past experiences in covering previous tournaments in different ways, all of it was worth it.

One must build themselves up before creating or joining the kind of environment they wish to excel in. Do it the Cristiano way. Believe in your dream, even if it takes two times seven years to materialize… just like Ronaldo took 12 years to finally lift the European Championship with Portugal after that final loss to Greece in 2004 which symbolized my first football heartbreak.

As a stranger in Moscow and loving every bit of my time here, my happy-go-lucky soul looks back at all the ups and downs from the past 14 years and knows that whatever you’re going through — and yes, journalists are easily prone to depression — “Happy days will drown the pain. On and on and on it came.”

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