The Curious Case of Ronaldo’s Debated Birthday

Foot : Final / Germany - Brazil / Wc 2002
Ronaldo has two possible birthdays: 18 September & 22 September | Tim de Waele/Getty Images

It is bizarre that there could be any level of debate as to something as hard and black and white as a birth date, especially in modern times. But that is the case with Brazilian football legend Ronaldo, whose birthday is strangely contested, at least publicly.

You may have seen on social media a few days ago tributes to the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year in celebration of his 44th birthday. That is because, according to his entry on Wikipedia – the leading resource of information globally – he was born on 18 September 1976.

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de LimaRonaldo Luís Nazário de Lima
Different sources give a different brthday for Ronaldo | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Last Friday, 18 September, BT Sport’s football account with close to one million followers posted the following alongside a highlights reel: “Quick feet, power, pace and precision. Happy 44th birthday, Ronaldo! One of the greatest players of all time…”

The official Champions League account on Twitter shared a similar message that day as well.

In the past, Barcelona, one of Ronaldo’s former clubs, posted a birthday tribute on 18 September, while there are plenty of examples of online newspaper and website tributes on the date.

It is very easy to find ‘evidence’ online that Ronaldo’s birthday is 18 September, starting with that aforementioned Wikipedia entry.

But fast forward to 22 September and the birthday tributes again flood social media.

Rather strangely, the Champions League’s official Twitter account, with over 30m followers, posted a birthday message on 22 September as well, a different one this time. Presumably, it was a different person running the account that day than had been four days earlier on his ‘other’ birthday.

Barcelona, having posted on 18 September in 2016, later deleted, posted on 22 September in 2020. Inter, AC Milan and the Brazilian football federation have all tweeted birthday wishes to O Fenômeno on the latter date as well.

Take a look at the Portuguese language edition of Wikipedia and Ronaldo’s birth date is listed as 22 September, obviously different from the English version. The French and German Wikipedia entries also list 22 September, but the Italian article says 18 September.

But which is the correct date? The answer does seem to be 22 September. The man himself doesn’t operate a Twitter account and doesn’t always acknowledge his birthday on Instagram or Facebook. But a handful of posts in recent years point to 22, rather than 18.

Obrigado por tantas mensagens de carinho de todas as partes do mundo. Meu dia não seria o mesmo sem vocês! #Ronaldo41

Posted by Ronaldo Nazário on Saturday, 23 September 2017

“Wonderful day with many messages for my birthday!” read a Facebook post alongside a picture of a modest cake in 2014. A post in 2017 referring to 22 September read, Thank you for so many caring messages from all parts of the world. My day would not be the same without you! #Ronaldo41”

If 22 September is the birthday that Ronaldo himself celebrates, then where did 18 September come from? I looked for further information from a different source to try and shed more light. Superstars of the World Cup, a book published in 1998 in the build up to France ’98 features a profile of Ronaldo alongside most of the world’s top players of the time and again lists 22 September as his birthdate.

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de LimaRonaldo Luís Nazário de Lima
Most indications suggest 22 September is Ronaldo’s birthday | Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

There is, however a theory as to why 18 September is also considered as a birthday. That appears in a 2005 James Mosley book titled Ronaldo: The Journey of a Genius, claiming that the player was indeed born on 18 September, but his birth was not officially registered until four days later.

There is no other way to verify that suggestion, but it at least offers a possible reason behind the discrepancy.

As for Ronaldo’s birthday? Best to leave it as the one he celebrates himself.

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