Dubai: Sisters Leni (8) and Lisa (6) were on a holiday with their dad Gianluca Bazzica at the upscale beachfront property of Westin Resort Costa Navarino in the western part of Greece in July last year.
Edinson Cavani had scored on either side of half-time to show Portugal the door with a 2-1 win for Uruguay in their Round of 16 encounter of the 2018 Fifa World Cup.
Speculations were rife then on the future of Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo with many believing that the striker would continue with Real Madrid, while some felt he was changing his allegiance to Juventus in Italy.
All of a sudden, Ronaldo went missing and media speculation grew on the future of the man they call ‘CR7’.
However, one TV channel from Italy managed to track the star to Greece where he was holidaying with his family and friends following a disappointing campaign for the European champions in Russia. They dashed off a reporter to Greece, who was denied permission to enter the resort by Westin Resort Costa Navarino General Manager Roberta Davanzo.
In need of assistance, the reporter got in touch with resort guest Gianluca [and neighbouring villa occupant], who in turn, promised to assist. Out of goodwill, the reporter — who had carried an old [2017 season] Juventus jersey with him — handed it over to Gianluca.
On July 9, a day before the Juventus contract was signed and finalised, Ronaldo bumped into Leni and Lisa and beckoned the girls for a picture with him.
Gianluca carried the Juventus jersey and got it signed from Ronaldo, which his two daughter wore posing for pictures.
Ronaldo’s four-year, 100 million euros transfer deal was sealed the day and within the next couple of hours, the girl with the first-ever Ronaldo-signed Juventus jersey was seen around the world — standing in front of a swimming pool of the holiday resort. Little did she realise what upheaval she had caused with the gesture.
The same jersey is now in Dubai, and about to start somewhat of an unchartered journey for itself. “I can never forget July 10, 2018,” Gianluca told Gulf News in a chat during a brief stay here earlier this week.
“Since then I have had several offers from people to buy this jersey, but I have not fallen for that as I think we need to honour this memory of such a fine human being. I knew I had to be ethically strong and decided I wouldn’t part with the jersey for cash,” Gianluca added.
Gianluca has now tied up with Dubai-based Dr George John, noted orthopaedic surgeon and good friend, to ensure the legacy of this rare memorabilia can continue to fuel sporting dreams through his ‘Living Glorious Foundation.’ First on their agenda is a community effort from the foundation to feed at least 40,000 people in Manila, Philippines later this week.
“We could have sold this Ronaldo jersey for a few millions and then used the resources to fund various projects of our foundation. However, the idea now is to travel with the jersey to various places around the world where our foundation is active, especially in Asia and Africa, to see how best we can engage, empower and inspire youngsters,” he added.
Dr. John, who has a list of top sports personalities ranging from tennis stars Roger Federer and Serena Williams, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and footballer Wayne Rooney at his Transform Fitness in Dubai, has also decided to offer 10 free surgeries after every 100 patients that he undertakes. “This will be our way of reaching out to sportspersons, many of whom cannot afford or don’t have the ability to reach proper health care. In addition, we will also give each athlete an amount of $1,000 (Dh3,650) so that they can attend to basic necessities,” he promised.