Are Nike calling the shots in football?
report from Evading Standards 18.06.99
RONALDO, the world's most expensive footballer, again played while injured last night. The Brazilian national side drew 2-2 in a special centenary match against Barcelona, with Ronaldo looking exhaust- ed. Across the sports world more and more fans claim corporations have taken over football, and increasingly the lives of the players involved.
The leaked contract of Nike's reputed £200 million Brazilian sponsorship deal states that Nike can dictate when, where and against which sides the world's most famous football club will play five times every year until 2006. The con- tract states that the team must be the full strength national side. The small print makes clear that Ronaldo's presence, regardless of form, is a necessity. The game between Brazil and Nike-spon- sored Barcelona, the biggest club in the world, was Nike's finest corporate showpiece. The centre of the show was, despite being plagued by injury, Ronaldo, whose personal sponsorship with Nike is £10 million a year.
As Jose Texeira, Ronaldo's childhood friend from their slum in Rio de Janeiro, commented 'Ronaldo has no say, no idea what he's doing He is controlled by the businesses'. Last year Nike was again at the centre of allegations for using its financial clout to influence games. In the World Cup final in France, Ronaldo again played whilst clearly unfit to do so.
Conflicting stories of what happened and persistent rumours suggest Nike ordered the World Cup favourites to play Ronaldo for their own commercial advantage A Nike spokes person replied at the time, 'Nike wants to emphasise that the reports of such involvement is absolutely false'.
In 1997 a new deal between Ronaldo and his last club Barcelona broke down, allegedly over the way Nike and the club would split the £30 million needed to keep him there Ronaldo was then linked to other clubs.
Eventually, again in mysterious circumstances, Ronaldo signed for the £125 million Nike-sponsored club Inter Milan. It seems that Ronaldo, in Nike's eyes, is far from being a human being, but merely anoth- er source of profit, like a factory, or their Vietnamese workers on £1 a day.
Of course, nobody should blame Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima for any of this. As his Brazilian team-mate and fnend Roberto Carlos da Silva says, 'Football is a route out of poverty. Brazil is a land of social tension, and football takes our mind off it' he adds 'in fact, if we didn't have football we'd have a revolution in Brazil'.
Perhaps the world of corporate-football is not the place where we should invest our dreams.