ORLANDO, Fla.—In the end, the emotion was too much, the nerves were too raw and a former FIFA World Player of the Year ran on empty. Kaká said a final farewell to the Orlando City SC faithful after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Columbus Crew SC.
“You don’t think that any type of emotion or pressure would affect a player like that,” said head coach Jason Kreis. “It was a difficult night for a lot of players, but I can’t fault [Kaká's] effort and I can’t credit him enough for every single minute that he has played. He has given everything of himself, and you can’t ask for any more than that.”
From the moment he walked out on the field with his two children, the vivid feelings of pride, affection and community weighed upon Kaká.
"It was hard to play sometimes. When I was on the field, a lot of things were on my mind and it was difficult to focus on the game," Kaká said. "It was a really, really special game, and I wanted to finish with a win."
There were red eyes before kickoff, a sense of profound will during the game, and an outpouring of warmth and genuine love at the end as he toured the stadium and bid a fond farewell to Orlando City fans.
Back in the locker room, Kaká hugged his teammates, staff, majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva and CEO Alex Leitao in a bond of Brazilian friendship.
“Ultimately it wasn’t about the results, but the things we could change here," Kaká said. "I have learned a lot from this city, this club. It has been a hard day but very happy as well.”
The evening concluded with a long, lingering tour of the stadium, a parade with teammates and fans alike, greeting everyone with the same warmth and humility he showed from Day One of his Orlando adventure.
“Most of that was just to say 'thank you' because a lot happened during these three seasons,” he explained. “And, at the end of the day, it is about what we can do as human beings. One day, I don’t know when but soon, I will retire, but I will still have these guys as friends in the future.”
At the end, he looked back on three seasons of toil, the successes and heartbreaks, with a calm demeanor.
“Every moment with all the clubs that I played was special,” he said. “I can remember exactly what happened in the last games [with each of them]. Today was also like that, a special day that will be in my heart forever.”
But there was something extra special about his bond with Orlando and their community-focused fans.
“It’s very good when you leave a place and the door is still open and that’s what it feels like for me here,” he said. “I will always have a relationship with this club and I will always be a Lion forever, supporting this team. For me it is most important that I could build a relationship with this club – and the club is about people.”