Cristiano Ronaldo: The Drumahoe connection

Footballing superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has shown he hasn’t lost the human touch with a gift to former Drumahoe man Keith Norris and his children
Keith's sons: Mark, Alex and Kai NorrisKeith's sons: Mark, Alex and Kai Norris
Keith's sons: Mark, Alex and Kai Norris

One of the most talented football players of all time, Ronaldo has made a remarkable friend in Keith Norris from Drumahoe.

Keith, of the family that owns Norris Brothers car parts and accessories in Drumahoe, has maintained a good relationship with a few Real Madrid players since they struck up a somewhat bizarre friendship back in 2000.

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The Drumahoe man who now lives in Co Antrim is a fanatical Manchester United fan, and just happened to be staying in the same hotel as Real Madrid during a World Club Championship tournament in Brazil featuring both Real and United.

He struck up a conversation with a man named Pedro Chueca, whom he later discovered was a physio with the Real Madrid team.

He was introduced to some of the players – including Raul, Hierro, McManaman and Roberto Carlos.

Even after all those years, Keith has stayed in touch with Pedro Chueca and a few of the other Madrid superstars.

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He has also struck up a friendship with the man many believe to be the world’s greatest footballer.

He said he had arranged to meet Ronaldo at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast on the afternoon of the match between Portugal and Northern Ireland.

However, the Portugal team meeting took a little longer than expected – and because the local man had forgotten his match tickets, he had to go and pick them up and leave without meeting the former Manchester United hero.

Keith said: “I think the staff in the Hilton hotel thought that I was a nutter when I said I’m here to see Cristiano Ronaldo. I’ve known him for several years through my friend Pedro Chueca, team physio at Real Madrid.

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“I hung about a while, but knew I only had two hours to get to Whitehead and back to pick up my match tickets, so couldn’t wait any longer and so I had to go on without seeing him.”

Ronaldo – the best paid and perhaps most famous footballer in the world – is often criticised for his ego, but he showed the fame hasn’t gotten to him and that he still has time for an auto parts dealer who hails from Drumahoe.

Keith explains: “I thought nothing more of it, until a friend arrived from Madrid at the weekend with a special shirt and a phone call from a mutual friend at Real Madrid to say that Cristiano felt bad about the appointment not happening – and had sent this unique shirt.”

The shirt in question was the one which was worn by Ronaldo at a tribute match held in honour of Real Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer, Raul. The match was played against Al Sadd in the gargantuan Santiago Bernabeu stadium on August 22 this year.

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Ronaldo’s shirt was signed by Raul, another Madrid superstar with whom Keith has been friendly since the remarkable meeting at the World Club Championships in Brazil back in 2000.

“Underneath all the glitz, Cristiano Ronaldo is a very friendly and genuine guy,” said Keith.

“In the past, he presented my sons Alex and Mark with his match shirts and gave me a shirt for our new clubhouse at Greenisland FC and also sent me one for my business, East Antrim Motor Factors.”

The Drumahoe man said that the rumours earlier this year linking Ronaldo with a move back to the club where he achieved his greatest triumph as a player, his Champions League victory with Manchester United, weren’t completely without foundation.

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Keith, a life-long Manchester United fan and owner of the famous, huge ‘Big Lily’ flag from 1999, said: “I always have a laugh with him. He loves the craic and especially the United song ‘Viva Ronaldo’.

“I have often tried to convince him back to United, and he was seriously thinking about it earlier this year, but I was told in July he definitely was staying at Madrid.”

He added: “Unfortunately, we could do with him now at Old Trafford.”

Keith is also friendly with many other members of the global footballing elite – including former Man United legend Paddy Crerand and Real Madrid’s Michel Salgado, Sergio Ramos, Fernando Hierro and Raul.

Pedro Chueca, the Real physio and the man who introduced Keith to so many footballing superstars back in 2000, is still one of his best friends and the two regularly meet up in Madrid.