James Magayi @magayijim
The glamour and opulence on display during iconic Brazilian footballer Ronaldo de Assis Moreira (Ronaldinho Gaucho) visit to Kenya last weekend re-emphasised just how talent if well managed, rewards.
Travelling under the banner of betting firm Betika, the 2002 World Cup winner was given remarkable VIP treatment during the three days in Kenya with a security detail that sent tongues wagging especially in Kisumu where he visited on Saturday.
Top-of-the-range cars, chartered flights, seven-star accommodation, top-notch security round the clock and a bagful of money at the end of the three-day visit for a 38-year-old who quit competitive football four years ago.
“Only the president should be guarded like this,” remarked one dejected fan whose hopes of a selfie with a player, deemed to be one of the greatest ever to play the game of football, was thwarted by the scores of mean-looking muscle-men hired to keep watch.
Gaucho who formally retired from football this year flew first class on Emirates airline, a considerable step down from the private jets he was used to during the prime of his career.
However, flying a commercial airline, first class notwithstanding was just about the lowest point of his visit. Tour organisers made prior arrangements for the star to be hosted at the VIP lounge at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with Maasai dancers installed to welcome Ronaldinho.
His entourage included three others with just one identified as his brother. The team, under the watchful eye of hired security, was whisked into top-of-the-range vehicles waiting outside the arrival Terminal 1E and swiftly to the newest hotel chain in Kenya Park Inn by Radison for a brief media engagement.
The 2004/2005 FIFA World Player of the Year was then booked in a presidential suite at Villa Rosa, Kempinski where former US president Barack Obama and other captains of industries cool their feet whenever in town.
Having him sell the Betika brand for three days is said to have earned Ronaldinho Sh30 million. The player has stepped up his brand ambassadorial role for several companies after hanging his boots and will keep earning huge sums long after the end to his glittering career.
The public, keen to interact with the star who wowed the world with his football artistry was all along kept at arm’s length during his vist with a few vetted number getting close. Kisumu residents particularly took issue with his detail after lining up the streets and thronging Moi Stadium to catch a glimpse of Gaucho.
Despite the country owning myriads of world champions and multi-millionaires from the athletics, rugby and football world, certain parents still sway their children from the pursuit of their talents in preference to academia.
The likes of Eliud Kipchoge, Paul Tergat and Catherine Ndereba are globally acclaimed and attract huge crowds in the Western World yet are not duly recognized locally, perhaps because their handlers have failed to package them well enough to represent big brands. But Ronaldinho’s visit ought to impart one big lesson; Talent pays.