Say hello to the Angolan Ronaldinho

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Say-hello-to-angolan

Stepping out of his fire engine red jeep in his red loafers and red jeans, you can't miss Luanda's local hero, Gil Gomes. Wherever he goes, everyone wants to shake his hand, say hello and take his picture.

One of 11 brothers and sisters, he made his name as a flamboyant striker who wore the number 10 for Benfica and Portugal. With his trademark crimson clothes, gel wet jerry curls and easy smile he has the air of an Angolan Ronaldinho, although with far better teeth, and the people of Luanda love him for it.

As a talented eight-year-old, Gil was offered the chance to play football in Portugal. He even played for the national team. His proudest moment? Winning the Under-21 World Championships with Portugal in front of 120,000 people. He still can’t help grinning when you mention it.

Today, Gil keeps his memories in a self-made museum in his old ramshackle neighborhood of Prenda. It’s easy to spot: his name, ‘Gil G’, is carved in red wrought iron above the entrance. Inside is a treasure trove celebrating his career packed full of trophies, players’ shirts and giant photos on the walls of him with friends in the game like Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Eusebio.

Now 37, he splits his time between his home city where he organizes youth football tournaments and Manchester where he coaches at Manchester United’s academy. Both his sons, Rico (16) and Angel (9), are budding stars for the Red Devils.

Gil may have come a long way from the dirt pitch where he first began playing over three decades ago, but the Angolan star still only has to look out of the door to see it. Out there, in the dust and the sunshine, kids chase a football in the boots and shirts Gil bought for them. Perhaps they’re dreaming of one day being like their idol.

Football