Brazilian legend Ronaldo allegedly suffered a heart attack prior to the 1998 World Cup final according to cardiologist Bruno Caru as per the AS newspaper. For those of us that remember the drama of the 1998 World Cup final, the mystery behind Ronaldo's initial exclusion from the starting 11 has always left unanswered questions. It was World Cup final day and Ronaldo and his Brazilian team mates had taken their lunch before returning to their rooms. Here is Ronaldo's take on the events before we go into more detail.
Ronaldo was on fire form wise at the 1998 World Cup in France. Heading into the final he had netted four times including a goal against a very strong Dutch side in a 4-2 semi final victory.
Brazil and Ronaldo were a big worry for host nation France heading into the final played on that infamous day on the 12th of July 1998. As can be seen from this incredible footage from a French training session prior to the game, Ronaldo was very much so on the minds of the French players.
Ronaldo woke the morning of the World Cup final with room mate and best friend Roberto Carlos. The pair attended the team lunch that afternoon and headed back to their rooms for some rest. Roberto Carlos soon after took a phone call from friend and french footballer at the time Christian Karembeu. Karembeu and Carlos were good friends and club team mates at Real Madrid. Karembeu was ringing to wish Roberto Carlos good luck before the pair would compete for the World Cup later that evening. Behind Roberto Carlos as he spoke on the phone Ronaldo was lying on his bed watching a formula 1 race on television.
Disaster was about to strike. Roberto Carlos heard Ronaldo suddenly struggling with his breathing from behind him and let out a roar. Karembeu recalled the moment in the press some years later "I just heard him roar and Roberto told me he had to go, the phone went dead". Roanldo's body shook and he began to froth from the mouth. Roberto Carlos screams for help were heard and centre forward Edmundo was first to arrive on the scene. Edmundo's reaction was to sprint through the corridors banging on the room doors seeking help. Another teammate Cesar Sampaio placed his hand in Ronaldo's mouth in order to prevent him from swallowing his tongue. Ronaldo as per the Guardian newspaper recalls little of the incident "I don’t remember properly, but I was drifting off to sleep, and then, like the doctor said, it seems I had a seizure for thirty or forty seconds”.
When the medics arrived Roberto Carlos told them Ronaldo appeared to have an epilepsy attack, this years later appears to have caused a misdiagnoses according to doctor Bruno Caru who worked alongside Piero Volphi, the docter sent by Inter Milan to investigate the incident in 1998.
Doctor Bruno said that Roberto Carlos had told the doctors that it was an attack of epilepsy, and the Brazilian soccer player was taken to hospital and treated at the department of neurology. “There were various tests made, but we know that a neurologist do not waste his time for an electrocardiogram, which I did with Volpi when Ronaldo returned from Paris to Inter Milan. The electrocardiogram showed a very low heart rate” doctor Bruno explains. Subsequently, the medicines taken by the player were indicated for epilepsy attacks, and they affected Ronaldo for several days. “Physicians had taken in consideration Roberto Carlos’ diagnosis and Ronaldo was given a powerful medicine for epilepsy, the one used by Marilyn Monroe to commit suicide that reduce brain activity. This explains his playing during the final game against France. And that explains why the player fell on the stairs of the airplane as he was drunk at his arrival in Brazil, after the World Cup” Bruno Caru went on to say.
So it's pretty clear now why Ronaldo wasn't able to perform at his best when he was eventually included in the starting 11 on very late notice for the World Cup final in 1998, the man was drugged and highly sedated. Regardless of that treatment or the theory that in fact Ronaldo had suffered a heart attack it is incredible the man's life be placed at risk by featuring him in the match. A career troubled with illness, knee injuries and many set backs, you just have to appreciate how gifted this man was to fight back time and time again and still be able to show his class.