My essence will not change and my essence is Jesus. – Ricardo Kaká
Everyone knows about the passion of Brazilian football. What was it like playing in the midst of that at São Paulo?
It was amazing, I’m so thankful to God because He gave me far more than I could ever want or imagine. Everything that happened with São Paulo, A.C. Milan, Real Madrid, Orlando City and the Brazilian national team, it’s all been such a great experience for me. My faith is growing in every city and every situation that I go through and São Paulo was amazing. My career is just a way of God allowing me to learn His ways.
In 2003, A.C. Milan came calling – how did it feel to be wanted by such a huge European club?
It was amazing, I always wanted to play in a special team in Europe. When I was a kid I always had a dream and thought to myself: “I’d love to play for that team”; I just wanted to play in a big European team. When Milan made an offer to São Paulo, I went to the president and told him: “Look, it’s a great opportunity for me, it’s not about money, I don’t care if you can pay more than Milan, I just want to go there and play for this big team.” It was also such a big thing for São Paulo too, because they could then say that they have had one of their players playing for a huge team in Europe. They eventually agreed with me and sold me to Milan where my career in Italy started.
Talk us through the Champions League final with Liverpool. Why did you reveal that shirt, ‘I belong to Jesus’, which has now become so iconic?
I always put a target in every part of my life, including my football career. One of my goals in terms of my career is to say to the world: “I belong to Jesus.” It started in my house with my family, then I told my country and now I can say that I am showing the whole world. In fact, one of the first times that I used that jersey was back in the 2002 World Cup with Brazil and it’s for those moments when people are looking for me. In that moment, I don’t want people to see me, I want them to see Jesus. In that game against Liverpool when we were made champions and everyone was watching us, I wanted to use that moment to tell the world that I belong to Jesus.
What difference does faith make in your football career?
It makes a huge difference in my career. When I had bad moments with Madrid and the national team, my faith gave me the strength and support to keep fighting and helped me through those storms. I believed that something good was coming and it helped me learn from every situation. My faith is so important in every aspect of my career.
If you could make one statement to those who see you as a role model, what would it be? I would just say that Jesus is the best thing that could ever happen in our lives.
Football is a short career that doesn’t last forever. Have you any indications as to how God wants to use you after your career? As I said before, football is just a way of God using me for His glory. He’s using my career in football to test me and improve my faith for another big purpose and that purpose is eternity. Of course, football is important and I enjoy it and everything that comes with it, but I know that in two, three, four years, my career will be over but my life carries on. I will carry on into a new career but my essence will not change and my essence is Jesus.
The above extracts are taken from Cross the Line by Ollie Baines and Liam Flint (SPCK, July 2016). Buy it now on Amazon. This post is part of our week-long series on sport, inspired by our recent event, Sport: What’s the point?