The Father, the Son and the Holy Rivalry

Being a "son of" is not simple.

Even before you are born, another person's actions, greatness, manners and life, are automatically sat on your shoulders without you being asked if you are interested in it or not. Expectations, peer pressure, and a personal and stressful example of everything you do in your first decades of life, are part of the basic package. Now imagine how much pressure is on the shoulders of the "son of", say - Ronaldo. The Brazilian.

On Monday afternoon I went to Haifa to watch a football match between Argentina and Brazil at the Maccabiah Youth Tournament. The Maccabiah is an athletics tournament taking place once every four years in Israel. The reason for the trip wasn't catching young Jewish talents, but an attempt for a meeting with Ronald Domingues Lima, the 17-year-old son of none other than Ronaldo Lyos Nazario de Lima - the real and original Ronaldo - one of the greatest players ever.

Same number, same haircut, same standing. Ronald Lime (Uri Levy/BabaGol)

Same number, same haircut, same standing. Ronald Lime (Uri Levy/BabaGol)

Ronald is not Jewish, but he is practicing at the Jewish Club of São Paulo - Hebraica. Maccabi Brazil offered him a chance to join the national soccer team for the tournament, and he agreed.

The I wanted to talk with him about his visit to Israel, his dreams, his DJ career he develops, football, and mainly - how is to grow up in a home where the father character is one of the greatest soccer geniuses in history.

Before the trip I tried to get Ronaldo or the heads of the Brazilian delegation to the Maccabiah, but it did not avail. Ronald is not being interviewed by any media outlet. The pressure of the Israeli media to get an interview with the "son of" made its impact, and in Brazil they decided - on the father's advice - that he would not be interviewed. In addition, close sources to the delegation repeatedly claimed that I had no reason to come. "He is very far from his father's ability," said a member of the Brazilian delegation. "All the locals' enthusiasm from him pushed him aside. He did not manage two passes in the the entire tournament."

The team itself lost most of their games and looked in the surest way towards elimination.

I went anyways.

The road to Haifa from Jerusalem passed quickly, and I arrived the Carmel Coast station and founded a weather that was everything, except good for football. Heavy heat along with terrible humidity filled the stadium, and the Mediterranean Sea resembled a metal that was boiled in the sun and returned its rays. An atmosphere of the end of the world, while everyone around me were sweating. 

An end of the world atmosphere. Haifa (Uri Levy/BabaGol)

An end of the world atmosphere. Haifa (Uri Levy/BabaGol)

As the time approached, I realized that Ronaldo Junior was a marginal part of the story. We chatted a little off the record, and he was excited for the game. As the match approached, a growing noise was developing in the background. A crowd of dozens of Argentines arrived at the stadium and sounded like a few hundreds. Amazing, I thought. I live for the passion the South Americans has for football.

As the players left the locker rooms, one of them stood out with a serious hit mark on his left eye. "There was a fight between the two teams last night, there was a very warm atmosphere, a real world war," one of the security guards told me as I photographed the players. Suddenly the penny fell. This is not a simple game between the youth teams in Maccabiah; This is Brazil against Argentina. With all its significance and symbolism.

The cultural and sporting rivalry between the two countries, is deep and rooted. It's a super rivalry. Portuguese versus Spanish. Brazilian Jogo Bonito against the tough and combative game of the Argentines. Pele against Maradona. Tullio's goal in the Copa America, against the incident with Branko in the World Cup in Italy in 1990, following which the negative image of the Argentinians in Brazil was reinforced. Scammers, arrogants and dirty.

The game developed accordingly. Violent, slow and inaccurate.

Ronald Lima is on the Brazilian bench. (Uri Levy/BabaGol).

Ronald Lima is on the Brazilian bench. (Uri Levy/BabaGol).

Ronald wasn't on the first eleven, and after taking a few pictures, I went to the terrace to talk to some fans. Among the dozens of Argentines, three children sat quietly in red shirts of the "Equalizer" project. Equalizer is a project that combines an educational program of studies and football training, and its groups are spread throughout the country - In jewish and Arab towns alike. "We came to see Ronaldo's son!" The children told me excitedly. They have no idea what a player Ronaldo Fenomeno was at the time, I thought. In their minds as children, Ronald, his son, is also a football star.

It was then when a substitution was made. Ronald Lima, number 9, with a haircut similar to that of his dad in 2002, went on to play. Ya Allah, I've said to myself. They stand the same. The whole crowd, including the Argentines, applauded him.

But the haircut, the number on the back and his standing were the only elements that Ronald reminded of his father Ronaldo. For almost 60 minutes he did not touch the ball once, ran very little and mainly panted, in a way that reminded him of his father in post-retirement inauguration he games.

Towards the end the Brazilians were awarded a penalty. Ronald had no connection to the move. One of the Brazilians kicked, the Argentinian goalkeeper saved the ball, and the little Alabiceleste have turned madness mode on. They began pressure the Brazilians aggressively.

After 93 minutes. It arrived. An Argentinian counter attack, a hole in the Brazilian defense, a chip over the goalie, and a complete emotional explosion of the Argentinian crowd. Suddenly the whole scene turned from a mediocre youth game in the Maccabiah to the atmosphere of a World Cup quarter-final. Argentina in the next phase; Brazil, and Ronaldo's son, are out.

The players ran like crazy, jumping on top of each other with all the staff and fans jumped out of the stands. Water bottles flew in the air and shouting of "ARGENTINA, ARGENTINA" merged with "El-El, Israel" and the song "Brazil decime que se siente". A whole celebration.

Argentina's players going full crazy after their 93rd minute winner (Uri Levy/BabaGol)

Argentina's players going full crazy after their 93rd minute winner (Uri Levy/BabaGol)

The Brazilians, on the other hand, were broken. Among the sobbing players, I noticed Ronald. Standing with his head down, drinking water, alone, with tears in his eyes. One of the security guards passed by and made a Selfie with him. I went to console him, and suddenly I realized what a difficult visit he was going through. He is in Israel at the height of a Jewish and Zionist festival when he does not understand what it means, wherever he goes he is compared to his father - and time after time he fails to revive this image. "Ronald, it's only the Maccabiah, you gave everything you had. Now you'll continue to develop the DJ's career," I said with a smile.

He looked at me with the teary eyes of a child and muttered, "What do I care, I can't believe we just lost to Argentina."

This article was published first in Ha'aretz newspaper in Hebrew.