Three years ago Orlando City signed its first ever designated player: a Brazilian soccer superstar by the name of Ricardo Kaká. ‘Ricky’ assimilated immediately into American culture and became immersed into the Orlando community.
Fast-forward to November 4th, 2017 -- the day which saw Kaká play his final match in the Orlando City purple kit. The game -- a friendly against the Puerto Rico National Team -- was a charity event to raise funds and awareness for hurricane relief.
After the match, Kaká shared his thoughts on what it meant to be part of this memorable event.
“For me personally, to play this game was incredible because of the cause for Puerto Rico. I think everybody here enjoyed the game, it was fun, but it’s not just about the soccer game,” the City captain explained. “There are people in [Puerto Rico] that need our support right now and we tried to do our best tonight in helping these people and this country that really needs us.”
He also discussed his deep connection with Orlando City SC and his relationship with head coach Jason Kreis -- as it goes far beyond the field of play.
“My career one day is going to be finished,” an emotional Kaká said. “But the important thing for me is I can call [Jason Kreis] and say ‘Jay, we are friends right?’,” he said while smiling. “And so, this is something that I really appreciate.”
“Coming off the field tonight, seeing all the supporters and everybody makes me very, very happy. Every time I come here I will be welcome again, so thank you.”
Kaká was honored during pregame, halftime and postgame with video tributes and was presented with a commemorative plaque before the friendly. The plaque, presented to Kaká by club CEO Alex Leitao, reads “Forever A Lion”.
“To be a part of Kaká’s last competitive game in this stadium was really important to me and something that I will remember forever,” the City head coach said postgame. “I tried to set it up so as many players as possible could get on the field with him. We did get a lot of players out there with him and I think all of them appreciate that experience as well.”
The Brazilian played a free-roaming role during his 65 minutes on the pitch -- combining with teammates and connecting play going forward. Kaká assisted the Lions’ first goal of the night when he set up Dom Dwyer with a pinpoint cross from the right side.
The Fuerza Puerto Rico Friendly was the ideal send-off for Kaká, who has given so much to this club and the city of Orlando. The night gave players, coaches and supporters from around the world one last chance to enjoy Kaká grace the pitch as an Orlando City player. We will miss watching Kaká on the pitch, but the Brazilian legend is ready to move forward into the next chapter of his life. In his final press conference, Kaká laid out his rough plan for the coming months:
“Next week I have to go to Europe, I have some events for the World Cup. After that I will be back here, then go back to Brazil early December. I will be there until I decide the next step of my professional career.”