It’s a name most Orlando residents recognize and one the world of soccer looks up to. An athlete who changed the face of the sport. He brought immediate attention to the new Major League Soccer team in 2015 and was a prime reason for the explosion of support and painted purple city. His number (10) can be found on the backs of hundreds of soccer kits. His name is Ricardo Kaká, and Orlando will forever see him as a legend.
After three seasons with the Orlando City Lions, the captain has chosen to not renew his contract with the team and says his first “cycle” with Orlando is done. It is still officially unknown what his next plans are, but the 35-year old is rumored to return to the Brazil team even after he supposedly made a statement that futbol is no longer fun. “I don’t find enjoyment playing futbol anymore. I feel pain after every match. My body feels it, and at the age of 35, it’s hard to recuperate.”
The former Ballon d’Or winner was a three-time MLS All-Star and leaves as the all-time leader in Orlando for assists. Overall, the star scored 25 goals and provided 19 assists in 78 games with the Lions.
At his final match in purple on Oct. 15, he led his team against the Columbus Crew, although the Lions failed to take away any points. As Kaká entered the stadium, the entire crowd cheered and gave him a standing ovation as they embraced his final entrance to the pitch. He was in tears during the national anthem as it was sure to be an emotional evening for him. His children walked out to midfield beside him one last time – a bittersweet moment, I’m sure.
The entire 90 minutes, you could tell how badly Kaká wanted a victory to make his last match even more memorable. You could see how desperately he wanted to score one last goal. His teammates set him up several times, and with a couple of shots slightly off target, I’m sure it was something he dwelled on. Columbus scored in the 66th minute.
The 89th minute came around, and a foul by Columbus was made right outside the box. This was the moment we, including Kaká, had been waiting for. We could tie it up. It could be one of the greatest final plays in his career. The star of the night took the shot and missed, but it was a close call for the Crew keeper.
Four minutes were added in stoppage time. One minute in, right before the play began, two young boys ran onto the field to bow down to their hero. That moment right there was the showstopper of the night. Kaká hugged them and put an arm around each boy and walked them to the sidelines as security ran onto the field. The crowd roared in respect for those fans as they were escorted out of the stadium, extending high-fives to those fellow supporters who were close enough. All of Orlando was behind them for that move.
As the final whistle blew, the fans erupted into one ultimate, long applause and ovation for the captain, and a somewhat melancholy mood fell over the stadium. Although he is hanging up his boots, Kaká will be remembered by many for his lasting impact.
It’s been a career for the books, Kaká. Once a Lion, always a Lion.