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New contract soothes World Cup pain

Thursday, 06.07.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Montreal Canadiens
Soccer bloodlines run deep in the Ribeiro family


The mood when Ribeiro met the media was much more upbeat than on the field for his beloved Portugal after they bowed out to France at the World Cup.

MONTREAL -- Mike Ribeiro may have been all smiles after re-signing with the Canadiens on Thursday, but that certainly wasn't the case 24 hours earlier when Portugal had their World Cup hopes crushed by France.

 The Ribeiros take their soccer pretty seriously. Mike's dad Alberto did, after all, play professionally in the early 1980s. A soccer fanatic, the elder Ribeiro even traveled all the way to his native Portugal to experience World Cup fever first-hand while soccer's premier event is being held in Germany.

While he admits to not being as soccer-crazed as his dad, Ribeiro is no stranger to a soccer pitch himself. With his father's encouragement, young Mike found himself strutting his stuff on the field long before he moved to the ice on a full-time basis.

"I played soccer, but only until I was eight," said Ribeiro. "I remember being pretty good, but hockey and baseball ended up being the sports I preferred playing the most."

It appears that the Ribeiro soccer gene may have only skipped a generation, with Mike's five-year-old son Mikael now busy spending the summer lighting up his West Island soccer league.

"Mikael has been playing great. He's been scoring like three goals per game," said the 26-year-old center, who moonlights as the team's coach, while also serving as Mikael's personal chauffeur for the soccer prodigy's daily early-morning soccer camp.

With mini-Ribeiro leading the charge on the field and the Canadiens' No. 71 calling the shots on the sidelines, the West Island Dynamo has been unstoppable.

Three generations of Ribeiros were on hand at the Bell Centre to kick off Hockey Day in Canada in January.

"We're 8-0," beamed coach Ribeiro. "The team is on fire and the kids and I are having a lot of fun."

The same can't be said for Ribeiro's sentimental World Cup pick, which proved to be no match for France. Ribeiro, who sat on the edge of his seat at his Ile Bizard home for Portugal's heartbreaking loss, remains optimistic about the team's future.

 "Sure the result was disappointing and not what I was hoping for, but I still think Portugal played really well and gave it their best shot," said Ribeiro. "Losing on a penalty kick must be really tough, but you have to still look at the bright side. It had been 40 years since Portugal even reached the round of 16 and with such a young team, I can't wait until the next World Cup."

Ribeiro, however, isn't quite as anxious for his next encounter with French-born teammate Cristobal Huet, who Mike taunted just before Portugal's showdown against France.

"I gave Cristobal a call that morning before the big game," groaned Ribeiro. "I wasn't able to reach to him, so I left him a message on his voicemail about how Portugal was going to kick France's butt. I'm still waiting for Cristobal to call me back."

 Should Zinedine Zidane happen to lead France over Italy in the World Cup final, it's a safe bet that a long distance call from the French Alps will have the phone ringing off the hook at the Ribeiro household on Sunday afternoon.

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com