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23rd Aug 2021

Paul Walsh reveals how he met Ronaldinho at his home in Rio de Janeiro

Lee Costello

“I didn’t have any expectations. I just fired him a message.”

A few days ago, images emerged of Kerry player Paul Walsh, presenting Brazil legend Ronaldinho, a GAA county jersey, and everyone was baffled as to how such an arrangement took place.

Then a clip of the former Minor Player of the Year surfaced of himself and the former Barcelona star playing keepie uppies, in the the Brazilain’s home in Rio de Janeiro.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Claire Byrne, the u20 star revealed how he managed to set-up the meeting of his dreams.

“His brother Assis is his agent, “He’d have millions of followers on Instagram. For some reason, a year or two ago, he created a new account. I spotted it. I just thought that this is a chance to get in contact. It’s always been my dream to meet him.

“I didn’t have any expectations. I just fired him a message. I can’t really remember what the first few messages were. I was doing a Google translate job.

“It was explaining to him how much of a fan I was, that I was a Gaelic footballer from Ireland, and that I’d love to show him the sport.

“I was trying not to be pushy because he’s going to get loads of messages from everyone around the world. I had to push it a little bit. I did explain how much [Ronaldinho] meant to me.

“I just woke up one morning, and there was a message saying that they were on holidays in Miami, and they were going back to the house in Rio de Janeiro.

“He sent a message saying that they could arrange to meet in Rio. I was just over the moon. I couldn’t believe it.

“There always was [a thought that this could be a scam]. At the same time, his account is verified. He has loads of followers, and he was verified by Ronaldinho’s Instagram to be his agent. I just said I’d take a chance on it.

“I didn’t want to be worrying my parents, that I was going off to what they think would be a dangerous country all on my own. They just think that I could be getting catfished.

“Imagine if you told your parents that you were going off to South America because someone had texted you on Instagram saying that you could meet Ronaldinho.

“I just didn’t want to tell anyone in case it didn’t happen. It could really not have happened. Even when I got to Rio, I was outside the gate for hours, and I didn’t think I was going to get in because no one knew I was coming. Apparently, he wasn’t in the house or he was asleep.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

“There’s a complex with loads of big houses, and a gate with security guards to even get onto the streets. I had to hand in my passport, which I had already sent to Assis.

“I was just sitting on the kerb with my bag [for two hours], wondering if I’d wasted all my money on the flights.

“Finally, Assis or somebody got through to the housekeeper. I got driven up to the house by a security guard. I met the housekeeper, and she gave me a cup of coffee. Ronaldo – we’ll call him Ronaldo because that’s his name – he was in bed asleep upstairs.

“I was just sitting there in his living room for a while. Then his friends came over. I think they were planning on having a party. We had a few drinks by the pool until he got up. He came downstairs and I met him.

“I only sent the photo to a few of my friends. I wasn’t planning on telling anyone until I got back. Even when I sent that, nobody believed me.

“It was only because nobody believed me that I sent the photo of me him with the jersey. They must have let it out. The next day, I was just getting messages and messages.”

Walsh said that Ronaldinho was able to hold a conversation in English, and that he showed the World Cup winner some clips of Gaelic football.

“We watched the Copa Libertadores in his living room,” he said.

“I was talking to him about his career. It was the first time in my life that I was genuinely starstruck. It was a weird feeling. I’ve never felt it before.

“He was genuinely impressed by [Gaelic football]. I don’t know if he was just being nice. He was genuinely the nicest person you could ever meet. The first thing he did when he came down the stairs was to come over and give me a hug. I presented him with the jersey then.

“He signed all my jerseys, and then he asked me to sign the jersey that I gave him. It was a dream come true.”