Cristiano Ronaldo lets his hands do the talking in game of padel at VJC
A whirlwind tour of Singapore ended on Saturday for Cristiano Ronaldo with the Portugal football star entertaining fans not with his feet, but his hands instead.
Over 1,000 youth and adult volunteers at Victoria Junior College (VJC) caught a glimpse of his prowess with a racket and ball as he took part in a game of padel.
Padel is a mix between tennis and squash which is played in doubles on an enclosed court.
There was no trophy at stake but the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was his usual competitive self, first playing against two young people before taking on Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng.
Wincing whenever he missed a volley or a shot, Ronaldo grinned when he scored a point, raising his arms in delight to the cheers of the crowd.
Praksheeta Kuppusamy, 17, was one of the lucky students who was able to compete against Ronaldo in padel.
The VJC tennis player said: “It is such an unbelievable experience to get the opportunity to play against him. From what we heard, it was going to be a very friendly match but he came in and started whacking the ball. He was serious.
“He is so inspiring and makes me want to do much better in my tennis training.”
Ronaldo mania was evident on Saturday as hundreds of fans gathered outside the school’s main gate three hours before his arrival – despite the rumbling thunder – to catch a glimpse of their idol.
Inside the school compound, his security detail had their hands full trying to contain a crowd that mobbed him from the moment he arrived just after 5pm, till he left at around 5.30pm.
The 38-year-old, who made a US$200 million (S$270.4 million) move to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr in January, is in town to support two youth scholarships funded by long-time friend and philanthropist Peter Lim, in what is dubbed a #BeSIUPER weekend.
Saturday’s visit to VJC was in support of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship. Established in 2010, previous beneficiaries of the scholarship include local sprint queen Shanti Pereira and swimmer Joseph Schooling, who won gold at the 2016 Olympic Games.
From 2011 to 2022, 4,402 scholarships amounting to S$9.2 million have been awarded to student athletes from 54 sports.
Ronaldo has set pulses racing in his brief appearances during his two-day tour of Singapore.
Repeated chants of “Siu”, reminiscent of his iconic goal celebration, erupted when the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus forward walked into the VJC school hall.
There, Ronaldo spent 10 minutes fielding questions from the youth and talked about his winning mindset that has helped yield numerous personal and club honours, including five Champions League titles.
In response to a question from a young fan about how he keeps himself motivated, Ronaldo said that his motivation comes from his passion for football and a will to “make people, myself and my fans happy”.
Ronaldo also gave fans a glimpse of his future, as he reaffirmed his desire to represent Portugal at Euro 2024 in Germany.
Flashing his trademark wide smile when asked if he would be in the 2026 World Cup, he said: “First, I want to play at the Euros next season.
“It is important to look at the small- to medium-term goals.
“Let’s see what happens.”
As Ronaldo waved and made his exit to wrap up his fifth visit to Singapore in a decade, fans broke out into chants of “Siu” and “Viva Ronaldo” again.
His departure from English Premier League club giants United may have been acrimonious but, in the last two days, Singaporean fans have shown that they just cannot get enough of CR7.