First there was the Brazilian Ronaldo, then there was the Portuguese Ronaldo, and now it’s Australia’s turn with 15-year-old Melbourne schoolboy Ronaldo Yousef hoping to be the next star player with that famous name.
The Maribyrnong College youngster has spent the last four months playing in the Victorian NPL at u20 level, and as a result of his form has been selected as the youngest member of the Victorian squad for this month’s School Sport Australia u19 National Championships in Glenwood.
Unlike his famous namesakes the ‘Aussie Ronaldo’ is a defensive player rather than a flair striker, a powerful and versatile left footed defender who aims to stop the goal-scorers rather than emulate them.
Whilst most youngsters today idolise the likes of Lionel Messi, the Portugese Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez, he lists Philippe Mexes, Sergio Ramos, Paulo Maldini and Gerard Pique as his heroes.
“Some people think I’m joking when I introduce myself,” he tells, “but it’s my real name.”
Born in Queensand in 1998, Ronaldo is the youngest son of Iraqi Catholics who fled to Australia from the Gulf in the nineties as religious segregation and violence was on the rise in the war torn nation.
He was christened Ronaldo (by his football loving father) after the Brazilian striker who had wowed the world a few months earlier at the France ’98 World Cup.
“I came around in 98,” he says, “And I don’t know what my Dad and brothers were thinking but they said ‘why don’t we name him Ronaldo’.”
Although his parents divorced when he was young, Ronaldo retained his father’s passion with football and after relocating to Melbourne he was soon obsessed with Melbourne Victory.
Ronaldo credits his mother for her enormous support (often working double shifts to support his football training fees and travel costs) and his older brother Rany for acting as chauffeur for training and game-days as he worked his way through the youth programs of Sunshine George Cross, Northcote City and South Melbourne.
The ambitious teenager has also already spent two months away from his family at the Geneva International Soccer Academy in Italy where he was approached by several major clubs including Torino FC.
“I couldn’t get a European passport because my parents are from Iraq and I’m from Australia, so I couldn’t get a visa to stay in Italy – so I had to come back to Melbourne and focus on the A-League,” he said.
The dream of a move abroad isn’t lost on the young 15-year-old with a possibility of an EU passport for future moves, however, the youngsters focused on his immediate future.
“My grandfather’s a German citizen, and I could’ve gotten an EU passport [for the possible move to Torino] but it would’ve taken time,” the young defender said.
“Could the club wait? I don’t think so.”
The last year has seen the 185cm defender lining up for Werribee City and Sunshine George Cross at u20 level in the NPL with the hope of being spotted by A-League scouts for the National Youth League, with his short term goal being to play for Melbourne Victory.
Long term he’s aiming high, “I dream of being a Socceroo and playing in Spain or Germany.”
Driven, ambitious and positive, already playing well above his age group, and looking older than his 15 years, the Aussie Ronaldo is realistic enough to know that every player at the u19 Championships will have the same dream.
However, as he says, “No one will work harder than me, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be the youngest player there, or one of the youngest. All I can do is play my best like I always do.”