One of the greatest soccer players of all time is coming to Edmonton.
Global News has confirmed Brazilian soccer legend and two-time World Cup champion Ronaldo will travel to Alberta’s capital as part of an international friendly on Saturday, July 20, between Real Valladolid (Spain) and Cardiff City (Wales) of the English Premier League.
With his playing days long gone, the 42-year-old has turned to an executive role. Last September, Ronaldo became the majority owner of Real Valladolid — which finished 16th in La Liga.
Surprisingly, this isn’t his first trip to Edmonton. In a message to fans, Ronaldo says he’s thrilled to be coming back in his new role.
“I visit Edmonton in 1994 with the Brazil National Team and I love the city,” he said.
Twenty-five years ago, that game captured the hearts and imagination of soccer fans in the city. A total of 51,936 fans packed Commonwealth Stadium to watch the soon-to-be-crowned World Cup champions Brazil take on the Canadian men’s national team. Fans erupted when Eddy Berdusco scored the equalizer to give Canada a surprising 1-1 draw against Brazil.
The popularity of that international friendly had organizers calling Edmonton “soccer’s hometown in Canada.” Commonwealth Stadium has gone on to host World Cup qualifiers, international friendlies and most recently, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about Edmonton hosting FIFA events.
Known as the City of Champions, Edmonton has also been a city where stars have been born. Fans saw one of Ronaldo’s first appearances with the Brazilian national team, where he would go on to win multiple FIFA World Player of the Year awards. In 2002, fans saw the launch of Canada’s golden generation of women’s soccer, with the likes of Christine Sinclair and Kara Lang in the U19 Women’s World Cup.
Now, organizers are hoping to bring back that excitement and build upon the legacy those games left behind, which is why the friendly is more than just a game between two European soccer clubs.
On Ice Entertainment, which is organizing the event with the City of Edmonton, said they want to give back to the community with a week-long celebration of the sport. There are plans to host player and coaches clinics and open practice sessions to help inspire the next generation of superstars leading up to the Edmonton match between Real Valladolid and Cardiff City. Players and officials from both teams are expected to be highly visible throughout the city.
La Liga officials will be visiting Edmonton this weekend to tour Commonwealth Stadium. More details on events surrounding Soccer Week will be released in the coming days. Tickets for the international friendly are on sale via Ticketmaster.