Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, affectionately known as Ronaldinho Gaúcho or simply Ronaldinho, turns 41 years old today.
We may argue who is better, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. But as soon as the name Ronaldinho is mentioned, the arguments ends.
To one and all, “Dinho” was unrivalled with the ball at his feet.
As he hypnotised us with his spellbinding skills, Dinho personified the spirit of “Malandragem”.
This totem is associated with the freewheeling lifestyle and culture of the malandro.
The malandro is an Artful Dodger embodied by “the hustler, the street smart, an urban warrior living on his wits and charm”.
If he had been born in Kampala, malandro might sell you a rolex snack for the price of a Rolex watch before melting invisibly into the crowd!
Every Brazilian carries a malandro in their spirit as they seek the freedom typified by the Samba dance. Which transitions to sublimity; a boundlessness that releases them from the human condition to elevate a people into a formlessness which takes the shape of wherever it may be found.
It is related to Eastern philosophy, which tells us that when a person achieves such formlessness that person becomes like water.
“When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle.”
So water then becomes possibility instead actuality, a dream waiting to be achieved by those who dare to dream.
That’s why when Ronaldinho was put in Barcelona, he became Barcelona. Thereby inaugurating a new era at the club as he took it from 12th position to La Liga and Champions League glory.
This very spirit is universal, that’s how Ronaldinho was able to inspire the world. For it is the spirit of freedom (and its pursuit) found in the idea of democracy, of rule by parliament, and of law.
This spirit was to grow and effloresce in England in the 17th and 18th centuries, and then explode in France in 1789.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, French for “liberty, equality, fraternity”, channelled and canalised the surging currents of civic thought and development in Europe.
The world was never the same after 1789.
Water, so to speak, had found its place in the shape of individual rights and freedoms.
Naturally, there were societies which believed in the exact opposite and thereby found a champion in the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
He preached the supremacy of the state over the individual and inspired Marx and Lenin and thus contributed to the founding of Communism. His ideas shaped the bedrock essentials of the Second and Third Reichs of Otto von Bismarck and Adolf Hitler.
This difference of opinion led to a collision of civilisations, spelling war.
The president knows this only too well, since he was named Museveni after the ‘Abaseveni,’ who were Ugandan servicemen in the 7th Battalion of the King’s African Rifles during the Second World War.
In Ronaldinho, Brazilians found the personification of freedom through the malandro.
America has its founding hopes based on “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
The world over, a people’s hopes are the highest and truest expression of its spirit and culture.
What are Uganda’s hopes?
I believe they have nothing to do with primitive tribal ties, and everything to do with “kwefuga”: the independence of self and spirit.
Kwefuga helped us achieve flag independence, shake off despots and inflame people power.
As Ronaldinho once said, “God gives gifts to everyone, some can write, some can dance. He gave me the skill to play football and I am making the most of it.”
Uganda must rediscover its spirit, and then make the most of it.
Mr Matogo is the managing editor Fasihi Magazine.