Kaka the creative force behind Brazil

Brazilian midfielder Kaka eyes the ball during a FIFA Confederations Cup football match against USA...

Brazilian midfielder Kaka eyes the ball during a FIFA Confederations Cup football match against USA on June 18, 2009 at the Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:30 PM ET

Kaka was in deep do-do.

As an 18-year-old aspiring to one day wear the historic green and gold of the fabled Brazilian national team, his aspirations — and ability to walk normally, for that matter — almost came to a crashing splat.

Just months before he was to make his professional debut for San Paulo, Kaka went for cool dip in a local swimming pool.

It was a moment that could have ruined his career.

Standing on the diving board, Kaka slipped and took a horrifying tumble. The diagnosis: a fractured spine.

“It was a crucial experience,” Kaka recalled. “It made me understand that you can not take anything for granted in this life. It bestowed value on everything I had around me, especially the people closest to me.”

In the end, Kaka was fortunate. He barely avoided crippling himself.

“The doctors said I was very lucky to walk normally,” he said.

These days, Kaka doesn’t do a lot of walking on the pitch. That’s too slow for the Brazilian midfielder/forward, who does everything at full-speed during a match — and then some.

When Brazilian manager Dunga raised eyebrows by omitting national soccer stable Ronaldinho from the World Cup squad, Kaka, almost a decade after his frightening accident, instantly became the face of the team.

And with good reason.

While Dunga is preaching a more systematic system this time around for the normally imaginative Brazilian side, it is Kaka’s magic with the ball that will remind fans of the team’s trademark creative style made famous by the legendary Pele more than four decades ago.

A midfielder by trade, Kaka will have cart blanche from the coaching staff to push forward whenever he feels fit. Having played some forward with his club team, Real Madrid, he’ll almost assume a hybrid role in South Africa — falling back when nursing a lead; forging ahead when a goal is needed.

Perhaps Kaka offered a foreshadowing of what is in store at the 2010 World Cup when he was named player of the tournament at last year’s 2009 Confederation Cup in South Africa, leading Brazil to a come-from-behind victory over the United States in the championship game.

Now he returns to South Africa, this time attempting to help Brazil capture a record sixth World Cup title.

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THE KAKA FILE

Name: Kaka, 28
Midfielder, Brazil
Club Team: Real Madrid
International Resume: 76 caps, 25 goals.
Did you know?: That Kaka’s full name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite. His younger brother was unable to say Ricardo, pronouncing it “Kaka” instead. The nickname stuck.


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