Rio De Janeiro
Former soccer star Romario, turned politician, has expressed severe doubts about his country’s ability to organize "the greatest Soccer World Cup of all times." He has indicated that it may turn out to be “the greatest heist in the history of Brazil".
Romario, the soccer player
Romario de Souza Faria, a.k.a. Romário or O Baixinho (Portuguese for “Shorty”, because of his height) is a former Brazilian footballer who played for several top Brazilian soccer teams. He has also played for PSV Eindhoven in Netherlands, for FC Barcelona and FC Valencia in Spain, Al-Sadd SC of Qatar, and for Miami FC in the USA. He helped the Brazilian national team achieve victory at the 1994 FIFA World Cup and has been one of the all-time top scorers in the sport, only comparable to Brazil’s Pelé and Ronaldo, and to Diego Maradona of Argentina (see video below).
Romario retired from soccer at least twice, in 2008 and 2009, and in 2010 he got involved in Brazilian federal politics, running for election as a member of the Chamber of Deputies in the Brazilian Socialist Party list. He was elected with the sixth largest vote in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Romario, the politician
As a politician Romario has been largely concerned about his country’s preparations to host the 2014 FIFA World
Federal Deputy Romario de Souza Faria, Member of Brazilian Congress, Rio de Janeiro.
Cup. In several occasions he has criticised the level of preparation of the country for the important international event, particularly in connection with the expected date of completion of several stadiums and in the organization and readiness of the ground transportation systems in several cities.
In recent days Romario has hardened his rhetoric and accused Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian president, and Joseph Blatter, the president of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) of deceiving Brazilians about how well the preparatory work is progressing. Last week Rousseff and Blatter had a meeting to evaluate progress to which congressmen were not invited.
"The federal government is deceiving the people. President Dilma is being deceived or is letting people deceive her,'' Romario said. "It will be the greatest heist in the history of Brazil. Then I'll want to see if the people who were smiling in the photograph in that meeting will want to show up again. Brazil is a circus and you already know who the clowns are.'' he added.
Romario has been an outspoken critic of the preparatory work carried out so far complaining about serious overspending and misuse of public funds. He insists that important work that should be going on right now is being purposely delayed until it becomes “emergency work”, thus obviating the need for tenders and a regular bidding process.
Romario’s “glass roof”
The 2014 FIFA World Cup may result a complete success, or possibly a great disaster, and Deputy Romario may end up being right. Unfortunately, Deputy Romario’s personal reputation and credibility are not all that great. He
Brazilian soccer player Romario leaves jail following detention for failing to pay child support allowances (Screengrab from ElMundo.es).
was elected to office despite a poor personal record and being a highly controversial character. In addition to the great praise he has received for his exploits on the soccer field, O Baixinho has often been in the press because of wrongdoings. During his soccer career he was also known for his love of nightlife, absences from training, unruly behavior, failing a doping test, and frequent fights.
In 2005 Romario was ordered to pay US$ 22,200 to former soccer player Zico (Arthur Antunes Coimbra) as compensation for "moral damage" when he used Zico’s image on the doors of toilets in a bar he was operating in Rio de Janeiro. In 2009 he was in prison for defaulting on child support payments, and in the same year he was sentenced to three and half years in prison and a fine of US$ 890,000 for failure to declare income and tax evasion. His sentence was reduced on appeal to two and a half years of community service and a fine of about US$ 223,400.
In spite of his flaws, the fact is that Deputy Romario holds, along with another showman, Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva (a.k.a. Clown Tiririca), a seat in Brazil’s Federal Congress. After being elected in Sao Paulo State with the highest national vote, Deputy Oliveira was able to fend off accusations of illiteracy by obtaining 30% in a simple test and demonstrating that he could read and write, thus keeping his post as a Federal Deputy.
Still, we must assume that Brazilians accept as true that federal politics and the organization of the 2014 FIFA World Cup are in good hands.