Former Brazilian football star Ronaldo Nazario is the latest athlete to become a member of Team PokerStars SportStar, the online poker site announced on Thursday. The man best known simply as "Ronaldo" joins an impressive group of sports stars including Rafael Nadal, Boris Becker, and Fatima Moreira De Melo.
Ronaldo is widely considered one of football's all-time greats, earning numerous awards during his 19-year pro career. He played in 98 international matches for his native Brazil, scoring 62 goals and is the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of the World Cup (15 goals). He played a major role on the Brazilian national team that won the World Cup in 2002.
Since retiring from soccer in 2011, Ronaldo launched a company called 9ine, which is now one of the top sports and entertainment agencies in Brazil. He made the jump into poker last year by signing Team PokerStars Pro Brazil member Andre Akkari. As the first poker player to be signed by the sports agency, Akkari’s reps are responsible for managing his image, brand planning, sponsorship, and more.
Ronaldo’s presence in the poker community has already produced a boost in participation. Before Akkari joined 9ine, the Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP) was attracting around 400 players per event. Five months after Akkari and Ronaldo teamed up, the BSOP event in December attracted over 1,500 players. The series is now sponsored by PokerStars, and Ronaldo is expected to be a regular fixture when Season 7 kicks off in São Paulo in July.
"I always look to give my best in everything, in football and in life. Poker is another challenge that excites me," Ronaldo told the PokerStars Blog.
Photo courtesy of the PokerStars Blog.