Even Brazil's president poses weighty question: is soccer star fat?

"So, what is it?" Brazil's president wanted to know.

"Is he fat or not?" Speaking from his office in Brasilia, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva put the question directly to his country's soccer coach.

"He is very strong, president," Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira promised. "He is not that boy anymore. His body type has changed."

Some weighty questions are being asked of the striker as the World Cup gets under way, and on Friday he said he was sick of it.

"I think I deserve a lot more respect because of my services in the national team," he said. "I think it's ridiculous. ..."

With four days to go before the defending champion team's opening match, Ronaldo said he is disappointed with how he's being treated by the media, and surprised by all the talk about his weight and recent ailments, including blisters on his feet.

"People shouldn't care about this," he said. "What difference does it make?"

Ronaldo said he understands he attracts a lot of attention, it comes with the job when your team is picked to win a record sixth World Cup. Still, he said, he "shouldn't have to pay a price" for being who he is.

Not everyone agrees.

Splashed across the front page of one of Brazil's largest daily papers, O Globo, was a cartoon of a paunchy Ronaldo tipping a scale, a thermometer in his mouth, his feet soaking.

"If I get rid of all this ... all is well," the caption said.

How fat is he?

Ronaldo currently weighs 86 kilograms (189 pounds), according to his official Web site. Brazilian doctors won't confirm or deny the information, or say how much weight he has lost since the beginning of Brazil's training.

FIFA lists Ronaldo at 82 kilograms (180 pounds), two kilograms (five pounds) more than in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, when he weighed 77 kilograms (169 pounds).

Ronaldo admitted he arrived at Brazil's World Cup training camp above his ideal weight. That's normal, he reasoned, considering he didn't play for almost two months because of an injury.

"I think maybe the president may have been influenced for the lack of responsibility of the media," Ronaldo said. "When the media insists about a subject, even the president may end up being influenced."

The president wasn't exactly discreet: He asked his question during a video conference pep talk attended by most of the Brazilian team and while Ronaldo was in his room with a fever.

Brazilian doctors said they've never worried about Ronaldo's condition, and guaranteed he will be fit for the team's opener against Croatia on Tuesday in Berlin.

In the 99 matches Ronaldo has played for Brazil, the team has lost only eight times. He is tied with Pele with 12 World Cup goals and is only three away from becoming the tournament's all-time leading scorer. He also could equal Pele's feat as a three-time World Cup winner.

"I'm very focused on the World Cup, and only on the World Cup," Ronaldo said. "Nothing else worries me now. I'm disappointed with a few things, but there's nothing I can do," reports AP.

O.Ch.