Table tennis gold means Ronaldo message for Portugal paddlers

  • Reuters, Baku
  • Updated: Jun 18, 2015 05:11 IST

For most athletes, winning the gold would be the pinnacle of their European Games campaign but for the paddlers from Portugal it means something extra — a congratulatory message from compatriot and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

A three-time Ballon D'or winner, Ronaldo is an avid table tennis supporter and said in his autobiography, "Moments", he turned down the chance to join the table tennis team in his native Madeira, instead pursuing a career in football.

The 30-year-old former Manchester United player, who appeared in a table tennis-themed commercial in 2010, still follows the sport closely, and sends congratulatory messages to Portuguese players whenever they achieve international success.

In the men's team event in the Azeri capital Baku, Marcos Freitas, Joao Geraldo and Tiago Apolonia claimed gold in the final against France and said that, though they had not heard from Ronaldo yet, a message would not be far away.

"This time he (Ronaldo) hasn't sent us anything yet, but I'm sure he will do so," Freitas, who also hails from Madeira, told reporters on Wednesday.

Freitas is Portugal's highest profile player, having climbed to eighth in the world rankings earlier this year, and began his career on the same tables where Ronaldo's "fascination" was born.

"After football, ping pong is my favorite sport," Ronaldo said in his 2007 autobiography.

"I love to watch professional games and I like to play."

"I began to feel a fascination for table tennis as a child because it is a very popular sport in Madeira, where there are several nationally competitive clubs.

"I do not know if the ping pong has lost a good player, but I know that even today I enjoy playing."

The inaugural European Games runs to June 28.

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