Ronaldinho's stepfather died of a sudden heart attack Friday, and the Brazilian star was playing with a heavy heart. Nevertheless, he honored his late parent with a performance for the ages.
He scored three goals and created two more in Atletico Mineiro's 6-0 thrashing of Figueirense. The win kept Mineiro within striking distance of Fluminense, who leads Brazil's Serie A by six points.
But it was his first goal, and the moving celebration which followed, that simultaneously thrilled fans around the world and reminded them of his humanity.
Ronaldinho scored his first in the 12th minute with a strike of the highest quality. He collected a short corner kick 25 yards away from goal, looked up and chipped a shot toward the far post. It floated over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Wilson before dipping, curling and bouncing off the post into the goal. It was remiscent of the goal he scored that buried England at 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Teammates comforted Ronaldinho during his tearful celebration. Then they rode him to victory, according to Xinhua.
"He had his head in the right place and asked to play," Mineiro striker Jo said. "He has experience and is a sensational guy. No doubt he is hurting now but he is exemplary. What he did was show his commitment to the team."
This latest chapter adds new depth to the legend of Ronaldinho. It will also make the voices calling for his return to Brazil's national team louder and more numerous, but that is probably the last thing on the grieving star's mind at this point.
Watch Ronaldinho's first goal in the video below.
Photo via Twitter/@duguiar