16 Jun 1998: Ronaldo of Brazil on the ball during the World Cup group A game against Morocco at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes, France. Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill /Allsport

On the day of the 1998 World Cup Final, everyone wanted to know what happened to Ronaldo. The best player in the world was mysteriously absent from the squad and was off the team sheet as close as 90 minutes from kickoff. In between, Ronaldo came back under mysterious circumstances and played the match, even though Brazil lost big to France 3-0.

After the match, it was revealed that Ronaldo had a “fit” but nobody really knew what that meant. A fit could have ranged from a disagreement with a manager or teammate or a serious medical situation. Later, after reports that it was an ankle injury or an upset stomach, it was revealed that Ronaldo had a convulsion while he was sleeping but details on that was also pretty vague. And people were confused about why someone suffering a medical condition, who was also off the team as of 90 minutes from kickoff, would be placed back on the team.

Ronaldo’s teammate Leonardo shed some light on what happened 19 years ago and we now know a bit more about what happened.

“Ronaldo went to have a nap on the day of the game, as we all do. As he slept, he had these convulsions. Roberto Carlos shared his room and saw it happening, he ran out and shouted to call for help.”

“We all rushed over and together experienced that dramatic situation. After the convulsions, he fell asleep. The doctor examined him, verified there were no immediate dangers.”

“Ronaldo woke up later at 5pm and still didn’t know what had happened. What do you tell him? What do you not tell him? Eventually he was taken to hospital for tests. Meanwhile, we met with Edmundo, who was supposed to play instead.”

“We were in the stadium about to emerge for the warm-up when Ronaldo turns up in a car and says he’s fine, he wants to play. He goes into a room with the Coach, comes out 20 minutes later and plays.”

“None of us warmed up really, he did it in the locker room and came out to play. Imagine what’s going through all our minds at that moment. Is he coming, is he not coming, will he play or not play, will he speak or not speak?”

“It was chaos, that’s how we prepared for the game. No wonder we conceded three goals against France.”

All this happened within hours of the biggest match in the world. How does Ronaldo neurologically go from having convulsions to being healthy enough to play? How does the team get back to being focused on playing a match such as this hours after seeing their best player go through that, then go to the hospital and then after accepting that you won’t have your best player, he’s back right before kickoff?

Apparently, Brazil didn’t handle it all that well because they got dominated by the host country 3-0 in the Stade de France. Ronaldo played all 90 minutes but was largely ineffective. Perhaps if Ronaldo had sat out, Brazil would have been better off. It’s tough to say but they surely couldn’t have done any worse.

[Football Italia]

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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