#GraciasCristiano: Two heartbreaks, one cruel summer

Published: July 11, 2018

Some celebrate their goals like he does. Some copy his playing style on the pitch. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ REAL MADRID

I remember holding my phone, staring at the screen, reading my friend’s message:

 “Zinedine Zidane has left us.”

It’s 15th Ramazan, I’m about to break my fast, I felt like a lump of tears had tied a knot in my throat. Even after keeping a fast of 16 hours, suddenly, I didn’t feel like eating anything at all.

Shock, anguish or grief, I don’t remember. A wave of mixed emotions had swept across my body.

I don’t remember crying but I do remember my mom asking,

“What happened to her?”

And the usual reply by my sister,

“Oh, probably something related to football.”

I don’t remember isolating myself in a room but I do remember sobbing after Dad entered and asked,

“So, your Zidane is leaving?”

Your Zidane. That’s how my Dad sarcastically refers to the people I admire. He says I’m crazy that I cry like I own them.

That was almost a month ago.

And exactly a little over a month later, scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, going through the ongoing FIFA World Cup news and banters, laugh reacting to the memes, I stopped on this one post that said, “Cristiano to Juventus: Deal almost done. End of an era”.

“Oh please, not again!” I rolled my eyes and continued scrolling.

I know this happens every year. The season ends, and media starts spreading transfer rumours until the new season begins.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a big name, that’s how they sell their papers, you know,” I told myself – or consoled myself? I don’t know.

I wasn’t affected, not a bit until every reliable source started reporting the same news, football-related accounts on every social media platform had the same thing. The internet broke and the media made it more obvious with each passing hour.

Strange how people living miles away leave imprints on our life even though we never regard them of such importance.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid with UEFA Champions League trophy, Coupe des clubs Champions Europeens during the UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool on May 26, 2018 at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: Getty

Or maybe, we do. But we never realise it until something happens that breaks our heart into pieces and gives us a burning sensation in our chest until we feel tears rolling down our cheeks.

I am not a Ronaldo fan girl. I never saw myself like that. I’m more of a Madridista. My friends laugh at me when I tell them I’d prefer Lionel Messi over Ronaldo any day.

Real Madrid’s new player Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo kisses his new jersey number 9 during his official presentation at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on July 6, 2009. Photo: AFP

I was okay, really. But then why this sinking feeling? How come I was feeling hollow all of a sudden?

I felt like drowning in a never-ending whirl of profound uncertainty of a future – a future I thought I didn’t care about but apparently, I did.

We never know there’s a bond that exists between us and people of the football world, a world that we have access to only through internet or TV, until that bond is broken.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One match between Juventus and Real Madrid at Allianz Stadium on April 3, 2018 in Turin, Italy. Photo: Getty

We think we’re strong. We think that people we watch on TV don’t have a part in our life. We think it’s a part of the game. We think that life will go on. We think it won’t matter to us a slightest.

Fan girl or a fan boy, or just a Madridista, what does it matter?

We’re all addicts. Some are addicted to the feeling this club provides. The feeling of having a family, of knowing the same anthem as the millions around the world, of chanting the same slogan “Hala Madrid!”, of screaming at the same goals, of crying at the same loss, of being loved when the whole stadium stands up chanting “Madrid! Madrid! And nothing ever!” and we sit behind our screens, having a sense of belonging, and our hearts smiling with joy.

The feeling of sharing banters, comparing our manager and players to others, breaking the internet when Zidane with his genius tactics proved “not every bald man is Zidane”!

The feeling of respect we receive from the football world for solely being fans of this mighty club. A sense of pride when fans of other clubs joke around like,

“Real Madrid? Or Imaginary Madrid?”

And we snap,

“It’s Royal in Spanish. We’re the Royals of the football world.”

It was July 10th.

I remember cheering for Ronaldo when he played the final of the Euro Cup. I remember crying when he got injured and I remember screaming with joy when he won it.

But that was two years ago.

Two years later, on the same day, Ronaldo’s move to Juventus is done. A Madridista can understand the sorrow. It’s not that we won’t watch him play again but it’s just that we won’t be able to see him in our favourite jersey, in our favourite club, lifting the trophy with us and kissing the same badge as we do.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates with teammates during celebrations at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium following their victory last night in Kiev in the UEFA Champions League final, on May 27, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Getty

Maybe, it’s not Ronaldo.

Maybe, it’s his ideology.

Maybe, it’s how he taught us never to give up.

Maybe, it’s how he helped us get through life.

Maybe, it’s the spark he ignited in our favourite game.

Maybe, it’s the thrill we felt while watching him.

Maybe, it’s the hope of victory that we clung to every time he came on.

Maybe, it’s the tears he gave us while we celebrated with joy.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates scoring his side’s first goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Juventus at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 11, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Getty

It might be different for the fan girls and the fan boys, but you see, we’re all addicts. We Madridistas have suffered two sudden heart breaks this summer and we don’t know what’s more in store for us.

Football will go on. Real Madrid will continue to touch the heights of glory. But El Clasico won’t be the same anymore. Neither will there be Ronaldo, nor will there be any thrill.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One match between Juventus and Real Madrid at Juventus Stadium on April 3, 2018 in Turin, Italy. Photo: Getty

Maybe, we thought it wouldn’t matter. Maybe, we thought it’s a man’s game and emotional attachment is something unknown to them but maybe we were wrong. And here we are; the Madridistas, the fan girls and the fan boys, saving every emotion he gave us.

Cristiano Ronaldo scores a wonderful overhead during the first leg of the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League 2017/18 between Juventus FC and Real Madrid CF at Allianz Stadium on 03 April, 2018 in Turin, Italy. Final result is 0-3 for Real Madrid. Photo: Getty

Some have it in the form of wallpapers, memorable photos, YouTube videos, his jersey collections, the caricatures, and some have Facebook pages named after him.

Photo: Giphy

Some celebrate their goals like he does. Some copy his playing style on the pitch. Some boast about how their favourite is the best in the world or he is the greatest of all time (GOAT). Some are proud that the best in the world played for their favourite club.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF celebrates after scoring the second goal of his team during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Girona FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 18, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Getty

We’re all obsessed. So we sit there in silence, holding onto the last flake of our shattered heart, gathering pieces of those precious moments he left embedded in our mind, or heart or maybe our soul – for those moments are the only treasure we have left that make us feel alive.

But like Ronaldo said himself in his open letter,

“Thank you to everyone and, of course, like I said for the first time in our stadium nine years ago: Hala Madrid!”

Cristiano Ronaldo: "The years I've spent at Real Madrid and in the city of Madrid have possibly been amongst the…

Posted by Real Madrid C.F. on Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Hala Madrid!

Zainab Sharif

Zainab Sharif

The author is a desi kid who likes to write, watch football and crack jokes instead of scoring good grades at university.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.