Radja Nainggolan is a player who has only recently emerged as a fully-fledged star on Europe’s largest stage but is someone who has overcome adversity and difficulty his entire life.
Numero Quattro, or Roma’s #4, has been one of my favorite players in Roma and Serie A for several years and my admiration for him goes beyond just what he does on the pitch.
Radja “Ninja” Nainggolan was raised in Antwerp, Belgium with his twin sister and three half-brothers. His family life entered great difficulty when his father left the family at an early age and his mother Lizy, raised the family by herself.
I can relate to that.
I, like many others, was raised in a single-parent household and understand that growing up raised by a single parent is no small task for either the parent or the child. Yet Radja and his twin Riana overcame the odds, and now sit at the paramount of Roma (Riana, his sister, is the captain of the local women’s team).
Fast forward to 2006 and Radja is now 17 years old. He earned a transfer to Serie B side, Piacenza, and even played in two matches for the senior side. Although his career was on the rise, the family was heartbroken by the loss of their mother. The next time you look at Radja, notice the wings tattooed on his back; they are the symbol of his mother, now an angel.
While in Cagliari, Radja attracted the attention of some of the biggest clubs in world football. Links persisted of his transfer to Juventus and I was saddened. I lost hope until Michael Bradley’s departure translated into Roma’s interest in him. Walter Sabatini was looking to replace Bradley, for more of a wing midfielder or intermedio.
Radja was the most logical choice and his transfer looked a feat of brilliance - as Radja was the standout player for the remainder of the season. With Kevin Strootman sidelined, we can thank Radja for picking up the slack and keeping Roma in second place during his first season at the club.
A year and a half into his time at Roma, Radja has become a critical player for the team. His relentless energy, pace of a horse and never-say-die attitude have cemented his position as one of the fan favorites at the club. Tackle after tackle, run after run and a skill-set that makes him a truly unico player, Radja is an invaluable asset to this club. I hope he continues to have a prosperous career with Roma, as he, I, the fans and the club look forward to continued success and the hope of trophies. Radja, you are our Ninja and I salute you.