THE MAN BEHIND THE CR7 MUSEUM: NUNO MENDES

Recently on a trip to Portugal, I made sure to visit the island of Madeira, known by all football fans as the birthplace of one Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro. I couldn’t visit the Portuguese GOAT’s homeland without making a stop at the CR7 Museum. The museum is a glorified trophy room. I say that as no slight. It is definitely one of the most impressive trophy rooms on the planet. It is a monument to one of the biggest personalities on the globe whose talent is even bigger as evidenced by the amount of hardware display in the Funchal museum.

Professionally Ronaldo has won five Ballon d’Or awards, several FIFA Player of the Year awards, and 26 team trophies including five league titles, five UEFA Champions Leagues Cups, and a European Championship. 

While there I took some time to visit with Nuno Mendes, curator of the CR7 Museum. Peep the convo below:

Tell us about your background

So, I started this work because I know Ronaldo’s brother. For a while, I used to teach him some English classes. So after he invited [me] to be part of this project. 

What is your role at the museum?

I’m the curator of the museum so I’m…responsible [for] the emails, and of course if any visitor needs a special tour guide, I can do that.

So you are the curator and in charge of the day-to-day at the museum?

That’s right.

What is Ronaldo’s brother’s name and his role at the museum?

Ronaldo’s [brother’s] name is Hugo Aveiro and he’s the director of the museum.

When did the museum open? 

We{’ve been] open for almost five years. The day of the opening was the 17th of December 2013. We just moved to this new space two years ago, we were in another space but now we are better located here in the Downtown [area].

Were you here for the grand opening?

Yes, I [was] here since the opening day, almost five years.

Who founded the museum?

The museum was founded by Mr. Hugo Aveiro, Ronaldo’s brother. Actually, it was his idea to create the museum. It’s a family business.

Give us a little of the history of the museum.

So it’s curious, this idea, it occurred maybe eight years ago. Ronaldo’s brother, he used to go to Ronaldo’s home and one day they were in the living room and Hugo…suggested to Ronaldo to open a museum because he saw so many trophies—spreading all over the living room and…Ronaldo says, “yes it’s a good idea” and Ronaldo’s brother said, “We can open it in your home [Madeira] and it will be a good attraction and at the same time it’s a business for the family.” So after some years, they planned, [found] the space and it all began almost five years ago.

Where was it originally located?

It was…on Princesa Dona Amelia street, not far from here, but it was a secondary road, not so big [of] a place. So after two years, we decided to move to the main avenue…Funchal. And this is a better place, now we are satisfied with the actual place. 

What would you say the purpose of this museum is?

To show to Ronaldo’s fans everything that he has won, since that first trophy that we have here until the last one. It’s an opportunity [for] the visitors to see, [right] in front of them the real [trophies] because we have here original ones and copies. For football fans, it’s crazy to be here and see what he has won. At the same time it’s a good promotion for the island because on Madeira island, we have so many visitors and for them, it’s crazy for them to be here and see Ronaldo’s achievements. 

How involved is Cristiano is this museum

His brother is the manager and of course, Ronaldo is also his partner and it’s totally private[ly owned], the government is not involved. So it’s a family business…it’s a private museum.

How often does Cristiano come here?

Not very often, but at least once a year he comes here, normally Christmas season. And of course, when he comes it’s a pleasure…for the employees…to be with him, and even for Ronaldo, we can see…in his face when he is here looking at his trophies, he is very proud of them.

How many employees here at the museum?

7 (8 including his brother)

What is the most prized possession here at the museum for you, personally?

Personally…without any doubt is the European Cup because for the first time in Portuguese history we won that award and according to Ronaldo that’s the one that he really loves and was most important. Of course, the Golden Balls have a special meaning because we are talking about the best football player in the world. And the first (trophy) that Ronaldo won for me and for most of the visitors has a special meaning because it’s the first one that he got when he was just eight years old.

What are the favorites of the visitors that come to the museum?

They love to be here. (Visitors) say the museum is well organized. So the Golden Balls and the lux statues are the favorite things (the guests) take pictures (with).

Talk about the creative process, direction, and design behind the space.

talking about the art, we have some paintings here that were donated by the artists. Paintings of Ronaldo playing football. We have a multimedia system (where) you can watch his best moments—videos, photos about his career. And we have something interesting (where visitors) can take a photo, a virtual one, that afterward, we can print—a photo of you next to Ronaldo…It’s like you are standing next to Ronaldo, and it’s very cool. We also have another multimedia system in which you can take a picture holding the trophies—the Golden Balls, the Euro Cup and you can print it also.

About the design. it was an architecture firm…that with Ronaldo designed this, but the floor Ronaldo wanted (it) to be…a traditional Portuguese floor.  In Portugal, we have these small…tiles…and the visitors are impressed because (the floor) was (made) one by one by hand. 

Who funds the museum?

No one…this building belongs to the government so…we have to pay rent but we don’t have any funds, we don’t have any sponsors. It’s all private. It’s a family business. We just rent this space…Even the money we receive, Ronaldo doesn’t keep any…Some people think he’s so rich and he gets even more money, but that’s not true…the money goes to pay the taxes, the expenses, the employees and a part goes to charities (in) Madeira, local charitable associations and we donate to people in need. 

What are the future plans for the museum?

That’s a good question. Even…after he finishes his career…we hope to be successful as (we have been up) until now. I think after he finishes his career we will reorganize all the trophies…But the future plans are just to continue (what we) are doing now. What I mean is that it’s been successful (with) many visitors and we hope to stay like that.

Why should people visit the CR7 Museu?

First of all, for football fans, this is a great place, to be here…it’s not every day that you have the chance to see the real trophies in front of you, especially the Golden Balls…The museum offers a unique experience…you can see the real trophies (right) in front of you, the most important trophies…And no (other player) in the world has a football museum. (You) have Pelé in Brazil but it’s nothing compared to this museum…You can see everything that one of the biggest players in the world has achieved so far.

CAN I KICK IT? EARL SWEATSHIRT RE-EMERGES WITH SOME RAP SONGS

If the title of Earl Sweatshirt’s new album sounds like the Los Angeles native is underselling his work, it’s because that’s exactly the case. He’s become one of the most lauded hip-hop artists of this decade but has the sort of personality of one who offers a gift unwrapped to a recipient who is expecting a grand gesture. As it turns out, Some Rap Songs is quite the present.

Thebe Kgositsile’s worst enemy seems—and has always seemed to be—collective expectations and the entitlement that comes with them. He’s always seemed to display an “Earl-versus-the-world” type of attitude, not in the sense that the world is or was rejecting him, but that he is rejecting the world. He earned a reasonable amount of fame when he was just 16 years old. He started as an internet sensation, became something of a meme, morphed into an enigma, then developed into an icon. It’s no secret that he’s an introverted young man that’s been reluctant to accept exposure and face potential invasions of privacy that come with being a bonafide pop culture star. Rather than bask in the attention that his music has earned him, he retreated from it, setting himself apart from contemporaries who maintain relevance through strategized ubiquity by way of numerous singles, tweets, features, and even appearances on lifestyle publication YouTube channels. As he shrank from the spotlight, his mystique grew—as did fans’ desire to hear him do what he does best.

Fans of artists like Earl Sweatshirt can often be divided into groups that listen to him because of his lyrical ability and others that use his mopiness as a sort of avatar for their own emotional pain. On Some Rap Songs, however, listeners are challenged to accept the whole package: a young poet-philosopher who happens to be the face of a growing sound and scene within the hip-hop landscape. In the past, Earl has sometimes been the reflection of artists and collaborators around him, but now, the 24-year-old has become an OG to a vanguard of young artists who are blurring the lines between avant-garde jazz and hip-hop.

This new sound is based on abstractions and focuses much more on mood than form. In Earl’s lyrics, the concept of Blackness is radical and soul-searching is channeled through a lo-fi sound awash with off-kilter loops, samples chopped into a state of unrecognition, and audio clips that feel both random and relevant. The single “Nowhere2go” is a perfect example of such, featuring a jittery beat full of stuttering loops, warped vocal samples, and sparse percussion. The result is a song that lands somewhere between jarring and soothing, the perfect backdrop for Earl’s deadpan revelations about himself: “I need a city to hold down (Hold down)/You n****s gave me a coast (Yeah)/You went and gave me a cape (Cape)/But that never gave me no hope (Hope, yeah, hope, hope).”

The album is distinctly rough around the edges. It reminds one of much of Madlib’s work of the early 2000s. Indeed, it’s hard to remember an album that sounded like this since the Madvillainy LP. The entirety sounds dusty and imperfect, which finds Earl and his cohorts tapping into the same sort of illegible, yet undeniable, feeling jazz musicians capture in slurred notes.

Earl also manages to tell an implicit story on Some Rap Songs that he didn’t tell on his previous projects—that he is a product of his parents. Though most of the album was composed before the death of his father (South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile) in January of this year, his presence looms in a way it hasn’t on Earl’s past work. The resentment and laments of abandonment that pervaded IDLS,IDGO, Doris, and Earl are replaced with acceptance and embrace. “My momma used to say she see my father in me/I said I was not offended,” he raps on “Azucar.” He shows signs of reconciliation and acknowledgment here, thanking the women in his life and how they supported him during his times of tribulation. “My cushion was a bosom on bad days/It’s not a black woman I can’t thank.”

That sentiment is felt strongly on “Playing Possum,” where a mashed-up duet of his mother (Cheryl Harris) and father’s voices appears as she describes him as a “cultural worker” and he recites an excerpt of a poem called “Anguish Longer Than Sorrow.” The track is a love letter to his progenitors, a letter that his father, unfortunately, did not get to hear before his passing. Later, on “Peanuts,” raps slowly over an out-of-tune piano sample, at one point mentioning his uncle, the African jazz legend Hugh Masekela, who also passed away shortly after Earl’s father. The final track on the album contains a sample crafted from his uncle’s work, signifying a catharsis that has emerged from Sweatshirt’s mourning. Distorted samples of an unsteady guitar seem to glitch and wobble until they go silent. Earl’s father and uncle are gone, but he is still here, building on his family’s artistic legacy while cementing his own.