The rise of Ronaldo Wilkins

In the late 90s Ronaldo was shocking the world with his dribbles and goals. The legendary Brazilian forward won the Ballon D’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1997, two awards that are given to the best player in the world throughout the year.

At the same time, on the other side of the world, another Ronaldo came to the world in Vanuatu on December 30, 1999. That baby boy and his family did not know that the Ni-Vanuatu Ronaldo would have the opportunity to face the world in a FIFA World Cup like the Brazilian legend.

The years have passed and the Little Ronaldo had his first contact with football. He started playing futsal when he was just six years old, and while Wilkins was taking his first steps to become a football player, another Ronaldo – Ronaldinho Gaúcho – was ruling the world playing for Barcelona.

Wilkins grew a little more and started playing football when he was 12 years old while another Ronaldo – Cristiano Ronaldo – was reaching the top of the world alongside his rival Lionel Messi. The Ni-Vanuatu boy grew up watching Ronaldos making history and he was decided to make his own: play for Vanuatu National Football Team.

Ronaldo Wilkins had the dream of representing his country

It did not take so long for Wilkins to start showing his talents in the local football pitches. In 2011 he won the Best Player Award of a U13 tournament in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. Three years later he had the first opportunity to feel that his dream was coming true. Ronaldo was named for Vanuatu U15 National Team that played the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore. He was the team captain in all three matches contested by his squad in the tournament.

After that, the young Ronaldo has spent some time in New Caledonia’s Zimako Football Academy. The upcoming year was huge for him as he started to play for Shepherds United at senior level and soon he was rewarded with a call up to play the 2015 OFC U-17 Championship for his country. He scored four goals in six matches to help his side securing the bronze medal.

Things did not stop to become better and better for the 15 year old boy. Wilkins was given a scholarship overseas and moved to New Zealand in 2015 to study and play at Scots College, a college that is linked to Wellington Phoenix Academy.

Ronaldo wearing Scots College’s uniform

His dream was getting closer an closer to him and with just 16 years old, he was called-up to represent Vanuatu in the 2016 U20 OFC Championship. He was not intimidated and scored two goals in the tournament, making part of the biggest moment of Vanuatu’s history in football. That U20 squad finished the tournament in the second position after losing to New Zealand in the final. Despite the silver medal, those boys touched the sky by taking their country to a FIFA-sanctioned World Cup for the first time ever.

Another year was gone and he finally lived his dream. Just like the worldwide known Ronaldos, Wilkins was representing his nation in a World Cup. Vanuatu lost all three matches in the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup held in South Korea, but it was enough for him to make more history by scoring a beautiful goal against Mexico in the opening match. You can check his goal in the video below from 12th to 16th second.

TBT #07 – When Vanuatu faced the world;
Ronaldo Wilkins profile.

Later that year, Ronaldo had the opportunity to know the country that legendaries Ronaldo and Ronaldinho Gaúcho were born. The Ni-Vanuatu rising star travelled to Brazil for a 15-day trial with São Paulo Futebol Clube, one of the biggest clubs from Brazil. “I went for a trail in Brazil with São Paulo but I did not make it because I only had two weeks and could not perform well enough and that’s my background I think,” he lamented in an interview with the Oceania Football Confederation in 2019.

Despite Ronaldo lamented that he could not stay longer with São Paulo’s squad, it was reported by Brazilian sources that it was just an exchange for the Ni-Vanuatu player, and not a trial. Maybe we will never know the truth behind that. Anyway the 17 year-old rising star had the opportunity to feel how it is training in a professional club, even though he stayed with the youth teams.

Wilkins spent 15 days with São Paulo FC in Brazil

Coming back home after living the atmosphere of a pro club was not as bad as it might look. Some weeks later he made his debut in the National Team during the 2017 Pacific Mini Games held in Vanuatu. He could finally feel the emotion of representing his country at senior level and many other things that would come later.

The year of 2018 was special for him. He was part of the Erakor Golden Star’s squad that played the OFC Champions League that year. The young midfielder played all group stage’s three matches but Erakor did not make the knockout stage. That year also marked his return to New Zealand as he spent some time with Tasman United squad.

Wilkins (right) playing for Erakor Golden Star in the 2018 OFC Champions League

Unfortunately he did not have the opportunity to show his talent in the ISPS Handa Premiership and then he came back home. Since then he played for Shepherds United in the 2018-19 PVFA Premier League and for ABM Galaxy in the 2019 PVFA Premier League Top Four.

The last reported time that Ronaldo Wilkins has appeared in a football pitch was in July last year when he represented his country in the 2019 OFC Olympic Qualifiers held in Fiji. He scored one goal in the opening match against Papua New Guinea and helped his country to come back home with the bronze medal.

Since then he has been playing futsal. He was in Torba United’s squad in the Port Vila Futsal league and scored two goals in the 2019 OFC Futsal Nations Cup.

Wilkins (wearing yellow uniform) against New Caledonia in the 2019 OFC Futsal Nations Cup

There are some rumours that he must come back to 11-a-side football when the football leagues resume in Vanuatu. The 20-year-old midfielder must take a final decision about he wants for his career as a footballer or a futsal player. He has already shown his talent and now it is time to shine before it is too late.

This article is part of the series ‘Brazil and Oceania: a Football connection‘.


5 thoughts on “The rise of Ronaldo Wilkins

  1. Vanuatu Football Federation, invest more on National players in international games or makert them. Make use of MSG and Ambassadors and consuls of Vanuatu in all parts of the globe.


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