Brazilian soccer legend opens academy in Israel

Marcus M. Gilban

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — A Brazilian soccer idol has launched a soccer school in Israel aimed at both native-born and immigrant children and youths.

Ronaldinho Gaucho, who spent last week in the Jewish state, announced Thursday the establishment of the Ronaldinho Soccer Academy, a soccer school for children and youths ages 6 to 16. The goal is to combine the passion and fun of Brazilian soccer with a strong teaching methodology and friendship values.

“I am very excited to help Israeli children of all faiths raise their game to the highest levels,” Ronaldinho said during a news conference. “I see the school as a first-class educational tool that helps in acquiring skills, tools for life, discipline, teamwork and more. Israel has a tremendous potential, countless talents and a great love for the game.”

The project was established in cooperation with the Beitar Nordia Jerusalem soccer team along with local partners.

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“Our mission is to bring new values to Israeli children and make the sports they are passionate about collaborate in their upbringing, promoting well-being, health, compliance and social engagement. Teachers will be cordial and patient educators,” Brazilian-born Mauro Rozenszajn, CEO of Ronaldinho Soccer Academy Israel, told JTA.

The former Brazilian player had a full agenda while in Israel. He visited the Beitar Nordia facilities, participated in a match with Israeli players, and visited Ra’anana, the city with the largest Brazilian community in the country, where he broadcast a  table soccer game on Instagram.

The school’s first activities will start in the summer with some 100 youths, initially as a summer camp. In September, the permanent school will open.

“Soccer is the most aggregating activity in the world. Israel has many children coming from abroad. We want to bring joy to these children and their parents and help them have a klita kala, an easy integration,” Rozenszajn added.

The Israeli academy is the tenth global unit following branches in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Korea, India, Azerbaijan, and the United States.

Ronaldinho, 38, is often considered one of the greatest players of his generation and regarded by many as one of the greatest of all time. Throughout his playing career, he accumulated numerous honors, including the FIFA World Player of the Year award twice and a Ballon d’Or. Ronaldinho played 97 matches for the Brazil national team, scoring 33 goals and representing his country in two FIFA World Cups.