JOHANNESBURG - Kaka has been hampered by injury and a drop in form over the last two seasons but probably the last thing the squeaky-clean Brazilian expected at the World Cup was for his revival to be halted by a red card.
Just as he seemed to be returning to something near his peak, Kaka will have to endure the frustration of missing Brazil's final group game against Portugal as he serves a one-match suspension for his sending-off against Ivory Coast.
The Brazil playmaker is trying to put a brave face on the situation, saying it will give him more time to work on his fitness, but he was clearly down-hearted at missing part of what will be at the most a seven-match campaign.
"I can see the positive side, which is that I will have another week to work on improving my physical strength," said Kaka, whose team have already guaranteed a second-round place after winning the first two games.
"I'm sad at not being able to play in this game, but it's happened and now I must prepare for the second round," he told reporters.
"Getting sent off is not a comfortable situation but from now on, I will try to police myself better on the pitch."
Deeply religious, known for his charity work and considered by many as a role model, Kaka has only been sent off twice before, both times with Sao Paulo in the early days of his career, and has not seen red for seven years.
His first Brazil dismissal came late a bad-tempered game after being given a second yellow card for allegedly elbowing Kader Keita, although he was the victim of blatant play-acting by the Ivorian.
"Even my grandmother was angry with the referee," he said. "It was a perfectly normal incident, unfortunately there was just some over-reaction from the other guy.
"If I had really lost my temper, I would apologise. But it was just an ordinary incident."
In the last two seasons, Kaka has been a shadow of the player who was voted World Player of the Year in 2007.
He arrived at the World Cup after a frustrating, injury-plagued debut season with Real Madrid but with the hope that a good performance could put him back on the same stage as Lionel Messi, Fernando Torres and David Villa.
"I've had a lot of physical difficulties this season and that was the worst, because I've always led an athlete's life and I know how important it is for a player to be in good physical shape," he said.
"Not being able to reach my peak has bothered me."
"I wasn't at my best in the game against North Korea but I played much better against Ivory Coast. It was a relief to play well."
The 28-year-old said his biggest motivation was seeing footage of thousands of people celebrating Brazilian wins on Copacabana beach.
"When I saw those pictures from Copacabana, the emotion was indescribable," he said. "It's not just Copacabana, there are millions of Brazilians following us, we are playing for these people. That's the real motivation.
"The messages they send us are fantastic. It's what motivates you to play when you're in pain, to make a sacrifice. It's what makes the World Cup unique."comments