Kaká Has The World At His Feet

By Dialogo
May 03, 2010

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite has no doubt why he is able to walk: God’s grace. Leite, known as Kaká in the soccer world, is one of the highest-paid and most talented players on the planet, yet the Brazilian’s career almost was over as quickly as it started because of an accident about a decade ago. “I had gone to visit my grandparents in Caldas Novas in Brazil, and there I slipped on a swimming pool slide,” he told the London newspaper The Sun. “When I fell into the water I hit my head on the bottom of the pool and twisted my neck, which caused me to fracture a vertebra. The doctors said that I was lucky even to be able to walk normally. Back at home, we always thanked God because we knew that it was ‘His’ hand that had saved and protected me.” Kaká, 28, recovered from sustaining a nearly paralysis-inducing injury when he was 18 to emerge the country’s next great soccer star. He began his professional career with São Paulo, where he scored 23 goals in 59 games from 2001-2003. He was so dominant as an attacking midfielder he was named to the 2002 World Cup at age 20. A few months later, he reveled with his teammates after defeating Germany for an unprecedented fifth title. Next month, Kaká can secure his legacy even further by leading Seleçao to the World Cup title in South Africa, four years after the team was upset by France, 1-0, in the quarterfinals. But it won’t be easy. Brazil is in Group G, which is called the group of death because the consensus is it’s the toughest of the tournament’s eight pools. The top-ranked Brazilians open against 106th-ranked North Korea on June 15 before facing 27th-ranked Ivory Coast on June 20 and third-ranked Portugal on June 25. “In the World Cup, there is no formula,” he told reporters, “no recipe for success.” Kaká parlayed his 25 minutes of play in the World Cup eight years ago into an €8.5 million (US$11.2 million) deal with Italian Serie A power AC Milan. In seven seasons with the Rossoneri, he played in 193 matches, scoring 70 goals en route to Serie A titles in 2003 and 2004, a Supercoppa Italiana championship in 2004, a Champions League crown (2007) and a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup in 2007, the year he was named FIFA World Soccer Player of the Year. “Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi have played some great soccer … but they are not yet the most prominent players in their national teams,” Pelé told reporters following Kaká’s 2007 season. “Kaká has been playing at this level for Brazil for four years now, he helps out in midfield and he is also a great example off the pitch. He's the complete player.” In 2009, he transferred from AC Milan to Spanish power Real Madrid in a six-year deal worth more than €65 million (US$86.5 million). Real currently sits three points out of the top spot in the Primera Liga. Kaká has scored seven goals in 20 games. He’ll have an even bigger challenge in South Africa, where he’ll carry the hopes of a nation of about 200 million on his shoulders. “I don’t want people to be saying of me, ‘Look, that guy says one thing and does another,’” Kaká, who has scored 26 goals in 73 games for the national team, told The Sun. “I seek to be a role model. I seek to demonstrate what God has done for me and that ‘He’ can do it in their lives as well.”
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