A Japanese boy was ridiculed by reporters after trying to speak Portuguese with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2014. Now, he’s a national soccer champion.
Ryota Iwaoka attended a press conference around seven years ago for Facial Fitness Pao, a beauty product that Ronaldo was a spokesperson of.
In preparation for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Iwaoka asked his Japanese-Brazilian coach to help him say in Portuguese, “You are my favorite player and I want to play alongside you. So, how can I become a professional?”
Although Iwaoka tried his best, he still struggled in front of his idol. During the Q&A, the crowd laughed at him, but Ronaldo quickly defended Iwaoka. “Why they smile?” Ronaldo asked. “You speak good Portuguese. Very good. They should be happy because you tried very hard.”
Iwaoka never forgot Ronaldo’s words of encouragement: “Believe in yourself. Work hard, and don’t miss an opportunity when it comes.”
Iwaoka became a talented midfielder in junior high school, but he hit a roadblock after several schools refused to let him play for their teams. Iwaoka was eventually accepted to Yamanashi Gakuin, a university located in Kōfu, the capital city of Yamanashi Prefecture.
He joined Yamanashi Gakuin’s B team before moving to its A team during his second year at university. Yamanashi Gakuin qualified for the national championship in 2020, and Iwaoka played in the tournament. However, disaster struck after his foot hit an opponent player’s. Iwaoka had to watch from the sidelines as his team played in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.
After defeating the high-ranking team of Aomori Yamada in the finals, the young player ran to his fellow teammates to celebrate their victory. They cheered inside an empty stadium, its seats unoccupied due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We became the best in Japan!!! I was able to win the championship thanks to the people who supported me for the past three years and those who attended the tournament safely,” Iwaoka wrote. “It was great to play with my friends.”
— 岩岡遼太 (@ryo_tama0510) January 11, 2021