“It was amazing that I am part of the history of football. I think of my career and where I am now, I am extremely happy. I have no regrets, because who I am today is because of the career I had and the choices I made,” said a content Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, commonly known as Kaka, in an exclusive telephonic interview with the Deccan Chronicle .
There lies the innate humility and assuredness that marked one of the most gifted players of his generation.
The humility, no doubt, comes from his deep religious background, but his humanitarian efforts come from a man who firmly believes in morals and the act of giving back to the people.
“I’m the ambassador of the World Food Programme and it’s something that I care about a lot and if I can use my influence and help people in need, I want to do it,” stressed the World Cup winner, who was, at 24, the youngest ambassador for the cause at the time when he joined hands with the UN.
Perhaps it’s the karma of his actions or the result of the hard hours he put in honing and testing his skills against the best or maybe both that made him the last man to win the Ballon d’or before Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi made it their personal competition.
“Professionally, my biggest achievement is everything that I won, from the World Cup to the Ballon d’or. Individual award means that I won with my team. We (Milan) won the Champions League, Super Cup and Club World Cup in 2007 and I was one of the protagonists of these achievements. So I have to thank my teammates for those awards,” he said, while adding his biggest achievement personally are his kids Luca Celico Leite and Isabella.
Looking back, Kaka’s career is dream come true. From kicking around as an eight-year-old to breaking into the talent-laden Milan side immediately upon his arrival from Sao Paulo at 21 to a 65 million transfer to Real Madrid with success with the national team to boot, it’s been a great ride.
”It was great. I was young, just 21 years old, when I arrived in Milan and there was Rui Costa, Rivaldo and all playing there in my position. I played with all of them and enjoyed it a lot. I went there to improve and as soon as I came in, Carlo Ancelotti gave me the chance to prove myself, which I did. In my first year we won the Scudetto and I was the best player in the league, he remarked.
“’ My period in Madrid was also great. I improved a lot and played with great players and won titles but I would have love to have better numbers there,’’ he pointed out about his injury ravaged time in Spain.
Now plying his trade for Orlando City SC in the MLS, it’s been a couple of years since the former AC Milan midfielder left the hustle and bustle of the European leagues.
“It’s very good and I enjoy playing here. I always said that I wanted to play here and when Flávio Augusto da Silva (the owner) told me about this franchise, I told him about my plans,” he revealed.
“I want to help the MLS. Football is the most popular sport in Europe, but over here it is a growing one. But the possibility for the sport here is huge. I want to play here, win the league and help it grow.”
A strong challenge but one, if his career is anything to go by, that will be met with the same smile and roll-up your-sleeve attitude that has left many such tests as his wake....