In a different league

For every Brazilian footballer a chance to play in the World Cup is looked upon as a divine blessing, as if God has willed it, writes Jose Barreto.

The World Cup will bring out the best in Ronaldinho because he is the type of player who cannot be marked. Brazil's opponents will have a man shadowing him in every game since he is so dangerous with the ball. Team coaches will have studied videos of Barcelona games and planned ways to stop him. I am sure he cannot be kept quiet and will find his way to the goal.

Once he gets the ball, such is the variety in his play that you don't know what to expect. Ronaldinho is different from other leading players of his generation because of his hunger to grow as a performer. Now he is scoring goals, after making a name in world football all these years as a playmaker. He is always trying to acquire new skills and wants to be known for more than passing ability. Ronaldinho's amazing form is a blessing for the game. He moved from Paris Saint Germain, where life was tough, to Barcelona in the Spanish Liga. Here, the presence of high-quality players enabled him to lift the game to another level. It happened because with others taking the load, he got more freedom to make moves. He is more effective now than when he was with PSG, thanks to the classy footballers playing with him.

There is a limit to the pressure even a player of exceptional talent as Ronaldinho can take. He can carry the load of the whole team, maybe for an entire season. But one cannot expect him to be performing all the time. At the World Cup in Germany, he appears to be in the right frame of mind because he is part of a strong squad. The Brazilians playing alongside will feed off his energy and ambition; at the same time their presence can also leave him free to destroy defences. T

The world Cup brings its own pressure. In Brazil's case, it's living up to the tag of being the favourites. People who wonder how the yellow shirts continue to dominate the event every four years should understand that for every Brazilian footballer a chance to play in the World Cup is looked upon as a divine blessing, as if God has willed it. Brazilians take the World Cup very seriously. The national team is aware of this, and yet it is able to handle pressure because each member of the 2006 squad will give off his best, trying to make the most of an opportunity of a lifetime.

Ronaldinho is one of the many Brazilian stars in European leagues, playing professional football for high stakes. When it comes to the World Cup, they play as one unit, the bonding is strong. Brazilians by nature are warm people; we like to express our feelings for each other, like to be with each other. So when Ronaldinho, Adriano, Kaka, Ronaldo, Cafu and Robinho come together in camps, they are Brazilians first, Euro stars later. Each one enjoys the other's company. This togetherness is carried at the World Cup. Ronaldinho is familiar with high expectations.

He has played on the national squad at all age groups, from U-17, U-19 to the World Cup, standing out as an exceptional talent right from his Gremio Football Academy days. I belonged to an earlier batch at the academy, but remember hearing stories about him during visits to the academy mess.

Whenever I returned to Brazil in between seasons, I went to the academy to catch up with friends and coaches, among whom Felipe Scolari was a major influence. Ronaldinho joined the academy at Gremio at the age of eight, and people there were fascinated by him. I watched a few of his games during his academy days. His skills and vision were visible.

Ronaldinho went on to join Gremio Porto Alegre, where he won many admirers. Porto Alegre, a quiet place compared to Sao Paolo, is proud of him. The 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan saw Ronaldinho showing flashes of brilliance, a feel for the ball and playmaking ability. This time in Germany 2006, he is a major force in the Brazilian attack.

I am home during the World Cup, after a very successful season in India with Mahindra United, and hope to join in the celebrations in the company of my family and friends in Porto Alegre, where Ronaldinho's feats are now talked about with pride.

Brazilian World Cup teams have given us many moments of joy and reason to celebrate. Germany will hopefully be another football party.

The victory at USA 1994 was the one I celebrated the most. In fact, most Brazilians felt the same because the World Cup triumph happened after a long gap, so it was carnival time when Dunga's team came home with the cup. The 1994 team was so different from the free-flowing Brazilian sides we have watched. That year, we didn't have variety and quality in the attack, Romario and Bebeto being the exceptions.

Brazil had defensive players, so the coach adopted a particular style. The current coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, has Kaka, Adriano and Robinho as attack options. Ronaldo is a proven match-winner. He should be in the forefront should he regain his form. This variety and depth in the forward line, responding to Ronaldinho's promptings, would help Brazil win fans and matches.

(As told to Nandakumar Marar) UP CLOSE WITH BARRETO

Jose Ramirez Barreto, from Baje, played at the Gremio Football Academy, Porto Alegre, from the age of 16 to 21 years.

Cerginho, the academy coach, gave him the first major break and noted coach Felipe Scolari has been a major influence.

The Brazilian striker's Indian league stint as a football pro started with Mohun Bagan, followed by Penang in the Malaysian League where he turned playmaker. He won the 2006 Federation Cup and National Football League titles with Mahindra United, excelling as striker-cumschemer and remains a crowd-puller in Kolkata, Goa and Mumbai.

(As told to Nandakumar Marar)