Ronaldinho celebrates after scoring a goal. Ronaldinho celebrates after scoring a goal. Ronaldinho celebrates after scoring a goal. (Photo: Mauricio Lima / AFP/Getty Images)

Brazilian sensation Ronaldinho opens soccer academy in Israel

A new generation will learn from his fast-paced and trick-filled repertoire.

Soccer's global popularity continues to rise: World Cup events feature some of sports' most devoted fans, new U.S. teams are selling out stadiums (we're looking at you, Atlanta United FC!) and soccer stars are some of the most popular athletes across the globe.

Case in point is former Brazilian soccer sensation Ronaldo de Assis Moreira – known to his fans simply as Ronaldinho. With nearly 80 million followers across his social media platforms, the Port Alegre-born athlete is widely recognized wherever he goes. Not to mention, he's often considered one of the best players of his generation. "What he could do with a ball is pure ecstasy," Jim Fraze, an enamored fan, told From The Grapevine.

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Ronaldinho is hoping to use his fame to attract a new generation into the sport. He was in Israel last week to help launch the Ronaldinho Soccer Academy for kids age 6 to 16. "I see the school as a first-class educational tool that helps in acquiring skills, tools for life, discipline, teamwork and more," Ronaldinho said at a news conference in Tel Aviv last week. "Israel has a tremendous potential, countless talents and a great love for the game.”

While in Israel, Ronaldinho visited the high-tech industrial city of Ra'anana, which is home to a large population of people from his native Brazil. While there, he showed off his table soccer skills, as you can see in this video below which he shared with his nearly 32 million Instagram followers:

The Academy will have a camp this summer for about 100 children before officially launching this fall. Soccer is a popular sport in the Mediterranean country, which is home to the Israeli Premier League and boasts a national team as well.

The Israeli school joins other locales where the 38-year-old athlete has created his soccer academies. Ronaldinho recently announced that he would be launching the first U.S. outpost in McAllen, Texas, this summer.

In recent years, Israel has become a must-visit stop for athletes from around the world. Major League Baseball star Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels teamed up with a facility there that works with special needs children. Retired NBA players have routinely hosted basketball clinics in Israel and, this past summer, Basketball Without Borders held events in the coastal city of Netanya. Last year, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and former Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown led a delegation of 19 NFL Hall of Famers. And after the 2018 Super Bowl, 7 players hopped on a plane to Israel.

"A lot of guys learned a lot about Israel and the people that they really had no idea of the culture,” Montana said. “While we came here on a mission for American football, I think we take home a lot more than we bring."

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Brazilian sensation Ronaldinho opens soccer academy in Israel
A new generation will learn from his fast-paced and trick-filled repertoire.