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Football | Brazil

Ronaldinho © Action Images

Flamengo fans boo Ronaldinho



Love was in the air when global football star Ronaldinho chose Flamengo as his next club in early January, after a lot of coming and going.

A huge throbbing heart appeared on the website of the traditional Rio de Janeiro club, along with the words "The world's best (player) with the greatest (club)."

Flamengo, which claims to be the most popular club in football-crazy Brazil, was full of pride. The fans were equally thrilled, and R10 himself appeared to be moved.

A few months later, however, many Flamengo fans are losing patience with Ronaldinho. The 2004 and 2005 World Player has hardly lived up to expectations, and anger is mounting.

The playmaker, 31, has already had to endure booing in some matches, most recently Sunday in the derby against Rio rivals Botafogo.

The game ended in a goalless draw, Ronaldinho was taken off the pitch before the end, and fans made the most of the occasion to slam his performance.

Since February 2, Dinho has played 23 matches with Flamengo and scored seven goals.

"Firefly-style, Ronaldinho remains turned off more than he shines with 'Fla'," the daily O Globo graphically said this week.

"The Number 10 had few outstanding performances and became a traget for the fans' booing."

According to the influential newspaper, R10 has turned into Ronaldinho "Vagalume" (the firefly, in Portuguese).

He had already been booed when Flamengo crashed out of the Cup in May.

"The fans have every right to be unhappy when the team does not win," Ronaldinho himself said at the time.

And yet his move to Rio did not start quite so badly. With him, Flamengo finally won the Guanabara Cup, and Ronaldinho scored the only goal in the final against Boavista.

He goes to training on time, and he has not shown signs of a lack of discipline.

"I'm not worried about Ronaldinho, I think he played well," coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo recently said.

"The problem is that people want to see the same Ronaldinho as in Barcelona," he argued.

And of course the player has long lost the top form he showed off years ago, when he was widely regarded as the world's best footballer.

Ronaldinho, who joined Flamengo from AC Milan, is visibly happy in Rio.

In March, he danced at the city's samba stadium during the world-famous carnival, and he enjoys other attractions too. He was recently spotted at a nightclub at 5 am, and photos of him playing footvolley on the beach were published after the disappointing match Sunday against Botafogo.

All this annoys Flamengo fans. One of them had the idea to set up a "Ronaldinho hotline," where angry supporters can report the star's night-time activities.

"Today, more than 1 000 people have dialled the number," hotline promoter Jose Carlos Peruano said on Tuesday.

"The hotline will be kept up until his performance on the pitch improves."

Dinho will have his next chance Saturday, against Atletico Mineiro in Rio.

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