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'I thought I'd fire him a message and see what happens' - Kerry footballer reveals how Ronaldinho meeting happened

Kerry U20 footballer Paul Walsh has revealed how he ended up meeting Ronaldinho at his house in Brazil.

Ronaldinho meets Paul Walsh.
Ronaldinho meets Paul Walsh.

DON’T BE AFRAID to meet your heroes – or, indeed, don’t be afraid to slide into the DMs of your heroes’ agent and brother – are the lessons to be gleaned from last week’s baffling collision of worlds between Kerry U20 footballer Paul Walsh and Ronaldinho. 

You’ll likely have seen the footage travel across your social media feeds last week of Walsh posing poolside with Ronaldinho holding a Kerry jersey, and playing keepie-uppies with the Brazilian legend. 

Brosna GAA club, not ones to miss a marketing opportunity, then tweeted Ronaldinho’s entry into their fundraising draw for a Volkswagen Golf. 

Walsh has now explained how it all happened. 

Ronaldinho was his childhood hero growing up, and he spied an opportunity to meet him when he got in on the ground floor of a new Instagram account launched by Ronaldinho’s brother and agent Assis. Given the relatively low follower count when the account was first launched, Walsh sent him a message. 

“A year or two ago he created a new account, and I thought to myself, ‘This is a chance to get in contact with him’”, Walsh told Philip Boucher-Hayes on RTE Radio One’s Today programme. 

“It’s always been my dream to meet him. I didn’t have any expectations, but I thought I’d fire him a message and see what happens. It was basically just explaining how much of a fan I was, that I was from Ireland and a Gaelic footballer and would love to show him the sport.” 

The pair traded messages using Google Translate for a year, in the hope of arranging a photo opportunity. Walsh then awoke last week to a message from Assis to say Ronaldinho was flying home to Rio de Janeiro from Miami, and that a meeting was possible if he got himself to Brazil. 

“There always was”, said Walsh when asked if he had considered that this might all be a catfish and ultimately a scam. “But at the same time his account is verified, so I said I’d take the chance with it anyway as I wasn’t going to get the chance again.” 

Walsh then booked flights without telling anyone. “I didn’t want to be worrying my parents first of all. Imagine if you told your parents you were going off to South America if some lad texted you on Instagram?

“And at the same time I didn’t want to tell anyone in case it didn’t happen. Even when I got to Rio I was outside the gate [of Ronaldinho's house] for hours. Nobody knew I was coming, and apparently he was away or asleep or something.” 

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Walsh was left sitting outside the house for two hours wondering if he had wasted his money, but finally Assis contacted the housekeeper to pass on a message to security to allow him through. 

Walsh passed some time drinking by the swimming pool with Ronaldinho’s friends while the man himself slept upstairs, but he eventually surfaced.

“I showed him a few games [of Gaelic football.] We watched the Copa Libertadores in his living room, talked about his career and it is the first time in my life I was genuinely starstruck. You just can’t believe you’re standing in the spot you are.

“I sent a photo to a few of my friends from inside the house, I wasn’t planning on telling anyone until I got back. Even then nobody believed me. It was only because nobody believed me that I sent the photo of us with the jersey to someone.”

Our national sport seems to have had a thumbs up from the Brazilian superstar.

“He was genuinely impressed by it, but I don’t know if he was being nice about it. He is genuinely the nicest person you could meet. The first thing he did when he came down the stairs was to give me a hug, and I presented him with the Kerry jersey then.” 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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