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The World Cup’s Biggest Mystery

The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, bigger than the Super Bowl and the Olympics. Over the years, it has produced some of the most memorable moments in sports history. From Maradona’s “Hand of God” to Zidane’s headbutt, the World Cup has seen it all.

However, one of the biggest mysteries in World Cup history is the story of Ronaldo in the 1998 World Cup final. France’s victory against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup Final isn’t the only thing people remember about that game, but the mystery surrounding the world’s best player.

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In this article, we are going to explore the mysterious circumstances surrounding what happened that night. What happened to Ronaldo right before the final, and examine the various theories that have been made out to shed light on them.

The Initial Shock in the World Cup

On July 12, 1998, in Paris, the stage was set for the biggest sporting event in the world. Brazil, the tournament favourites, faced off against the host nation, France, in the World Cup Final. Ronaldo, Brazil’s brightest star and a potential Golden Boot winner, was expected to shine on this grand stage.

Just hours before the match, it was announced that Ronaldo would not be starting for Brazil. This was a major shock, as Ronaldo was Brazil’s best player and had been expected to lead them to victory in the Final. The Brazilian team doctor claimed that Ronaldo had suffered a convulsive fit earlier in the day and was not fit to play.

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Theories and Speculation

As soon as Ronaldo was benched, speculation and rumours began in force. Media members immediately searched for an explanation for why the world’s best player was missing the biggest game of his career. There was speculation that his knee injury had gotten worse. Some believed Ronaldo was suffering an epileptic fit, but the lack of transparency about his condition didn’t help matters. It added to the drama before the event.

The Manager’s Decision

Manager Mario Zagallo made headlines when he decided to start Ronaldo despite the player’s obvious health problems. Before the game, Ronaldo replaced another striker chosen for the starting eleven, Edmundo. Zagallo’s choice sparked questions and added to the increasing number of rumours surrounding Ronaldo’s health. There was talk that the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and the team’s sponsor, Nike, had put pressure on Ronaldo to start the game for Brazil. Ronaldo was a phenom, a marketing monster. Nike wanted their star man to be the focus of the final.

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The Aftermath and Impact of the 1998 World Cup

Ronaldo appeared sluggish, unwell, and not himself during the match. France won the 1998 World Cup Final 3-0, marking Brazil’s greatest defeat in World Cup history at the time. Ronaldo’s performance in the match was underwhelming, and many speculated about how much his health difficulties had hampered his ability to perform at his best.

Ronaldo’s illness and unexpected selection in the starting lineup had never been completely addressed. There have been numerous suggestions throughout the years, but no one knew for certain what happened. For years after the event, there were still murmurs of what had happened.

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Theories and Conspiracies

Following the disclosure of Ronaldo’s health difficulties, a slew of speculations and conspiracies arose. Some people hypothesised that his breakdown was due to extreme stress or a hidden medical issue. Others questioned the Brazilian Football Association’s decision-making process and the team’s administration.

  • Seizure: The official reason was that Ronaldo had a seizure earlier in the day. Some, however, believe that this was merely a cover-up for something else.
  • Nike pressure: Nike was the Brazilian team’s sponsor at the time, and there were reports that they had put pressure on Ronaldo to participate in the final. Nike rejected the rumours, yet they persisted over time.
  • Pressure from the CBF: The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) was reportedly said to have put pressure on Ronaldo to play in the final. The CBF dismissed the rumours, but they have persisted over time.
  • Mental health issues: Some feel Ronaldo was dealing with mental health concerns at the time, which hampered his ability to play in the final.
  • Injury: There were suspicions that Ronaldo had sustained an injury prior to the final that limited his ability to play. There is, however, no evidence to support this theory.

Ronaldo’s Resurgence after the World Cup

Despite the disappointment of the 1998 World Cup Final, Ronaldo went on to have an extraordinary career. He recovered from repeated knee injuries to play a significant role in Brazil’s World Cup victory in 2002, scoring crucial goals in the final against Germany. The brilliant striker’s rebirth on the international stage provided bittersweet redemption.

The Convulsions and Unconsciousness

It wasn’t until several years later that Ronaldo himself revealed the truth about what happened before the final. He admitted that he had experienced convulsions in his room and was unconscious for several minutes. This bombshell shed some light on the physical and medical challenges he faced on the day of the final.

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In Ronaldo’s own words:

It was widely reported that Ronaldo had suffered a convulsion on the day of the final. This was eventually corroborated, by Ronaldo telling FourFourTwo his version of events in 2020.

“I decided to get some rest after lunch and the last thing I remember was going to bed,” Ronaldo explained.
“After that, I had a convulsion. I was surrounded by players and the late Dr Lidio Toledo was there.
“They didn’t want to tell me what was going on.
“I asked if they could leave and go talk somewhere else because I wanted to sleep.
“Then (teammate) Leonardo asked me to go for a walk in the garden in the hotel where we were staying and explained the whole situation.
“I was told that I wouldn’t play in the World Cup final.”

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The mystery surrounding Ronaldo in the 1998 World Cup final has never been fully understood. There have been many theories over the years, but no one knows for sure what really happened, not even Ronaldo. The only thing that is certain is that Ronaldo was not at his best during the final, and Brazil lost to France as a result. The story of Ronaldo at the 1998 World Cup final remains a mystery, and it will continue to baffle sports fans for years to come.

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