Vieira’s journey: “Football was my destiny, racism needs to stop”
He may have made his professional debut at the tender age of just 17 years, nine months and 18 days and been given the nickname Bambino [Kid], by Marco Giampaolo, his first coach at Sampdoria, but Ronaldo Vieira has come a long way since then.
“I still have things I need to learn,” he tells the club’s official media channel in an exclusive interview. “Last year I had to settle in, but now I’m getting more and more playing times so I’m pleased with that. [Eusebio] Di Francesco helped me – he told me I was better than I thought I was and that gave me more confidence in myself. We can do well under [Claudio] Ranieri: he’s doing a lot of work on the mental side of things. Football isn’t just about technique or tactics: mentality is a big factor.”
With a name like Ronaldo and a brother called Romario, you could be forgiven for thinking that a career football was always written in the stars for Vieira.
“My mother chose the names,” he explains. “We were born in 1998, when there was a very strong Brazil team. She used to play football and that’s why she decided to give us those names. Perhaps she already knew we were going to become footballers!”
Vieira had a fascinating upbringing, spending his childhood in Guinea Bissau before moving to Portugal, then England. And now Italy.
“I feel African and European at the same time,” he says. “I’d like to go back to Africa one day and help children there.”
It’s an admirable sentiment from a player who has been victim to horrific racist abuse while playing the game he loves.
“I like to think they did it because I was performing well on the pitch,” he says. “These things can’t keep happening, but they’re becoming more and more common: not just in Italy but all over Europe. Enough is enough.”