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A week to change the face of modern football

Written by: Staff
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BERLIN, July 6 (Reuters) In one week nearly 30 years ago, four of the world's top football players were born -- Ronaldo, Francesco Totti, Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko.

Ronaldo was born in Brazil on Sept. 22, 1976 -- a Wednesday -- to kick off that remarkable seven-day span.

Ballack followed in Communist East Germany four days later on Sunday, September 26, while Totti in Italy was born the next day on September 27, and Shevchenko also arrived behind the Iron Curtain in Soviet Ukraine a week after Ronaldo on Wednesday, September 29.

Totti is the only one of the four players born in that special week -- a time when Sweden's Abba and their pop song ''Dancing Queen'' ruled radio airwaves -- who still has a chance to win the World Cup on Sunday in Berlin when Italy play France.

INEVITABLE TWILIGHT Ronaldo's Brazil were eliminated in the quarter-finals by France, Shevchenko's Ukraine were knocked out by Italy at the same stage and Ballack's Germany by Italy in the semi-finals.

Even though the quartet about to turn 30 are now at the peak of their careers, the World Cup marks the beginning of the inevitable twilight of four of football's most valuable talent who have been dominant forces of their generation.

''I'm at a very good football age,'' Ballack said recently.

''You've worked hard and achieved a bit by this point in your career but you still have a bright future ahead of you.'' Germany's captain and Ukraine captain Shevchenko, who will both move to Chelsea next season, can celebrate each other's 30th birthday this year together in London and share stories about growing up in Eastern Europe in the Communist era.

Ronaldo was born in the poor Rio de Janeiro suburb of Bento Ribeiro, Ballack in Goerlitz, Totti in Rome and Shevchenko in Dvirkivschyna.

Some of the major news headlines of that week included: * Georgia governor Jimmy Carter squared off against U.S.

President Gerald Ford in the first U S presidential debate in 16 years on his way to winning the election just weeks later.

* The Rhodesian government agreed to black majority rule and Pan Am launched ''round-the-world'' tickets for ,917 from New York, to London, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Tokyo and San Francisco.

* The Hollywood film ''All the President's Men'' with Robert Redford became a worldwide box office hit and the TV series ''Charlie's Angels'' with Farrah Fawcett as one of three women detectives made its debut -- the day Ronaldo was born.

* At the same time, Britain was suffering one of the worst droughts in a century with many households left without water.

REUTERS PM BST1422

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