Romario sticks boot into the costly Fifa roadshow

One of Brazil’s most famous players is now outspoken critic of their attempts to host the finals

Romario was never one to be carried along on the current – not in his playing career, not in his remarkable second life as a crusading left-wing Brazilian politician.

He was a spiky, stocky, feisty striker, a little bull capable of causing carnage in the penalty area given a fraction of a chance, single-minded in his pursuit of goals. And he has taken the same approach into the Brazilian parliament, where he has sat as a member of the Brazilian Socialist Party for the last three years.

With the Confederations Cup in Brazil next month and the World Cup there next year, this might be a moment for national sporting celebration, for the nation’s football community to come together in mutual congratulation. And who would be a better part of this than the great Romario, with his 70 caps, his 55 goals, his 1994 World Cup winner’s medal and his heroic club record for Flamengo and Vasco da Gama?

But Romario wants no part of it. Rather than slap backs, Romario – never attention-averse – is using his role as president of the committee for tourism and sport to campaign against elements of the forthcoming World Cup, the money it is costing and the impact it is having on the Brazilian poor.

World Cups are expensive to host and Romario is publicising the huge sums spent and the damage done, such as the new $500m (£328m) 72,000-capacity national stadium in Brasilia, a relative footballing backwater, or the impact the redevelopment of the Maracana is having on local schools.

“Fifa comes here, and sets up a state within our state, and it will leave with $2bn-$3bn in profits,” Romario told BBC radio. “And then what? What about the white elephants, the stadiums, costing nearly $2bn? That could have been spent on education and health – much more important for our country.

“The best for Brazil is to have the World Cup, but there are some contractual obligations between Fifa and the host nation that we can’t accept. If they went to Germany with 100 demands they would get 30. If they went to the US they would get 10. When they came to Brazil with those 100, they got 90. Brazil just opened its legs. And until the end of the World Cup, Fifa just told Brazil what to do.”

Romario started to think about going into politics in 2005 after the birth of Ivy, his sixth child, who has Down’s syndrome. Romario was then 39 and winding down his playing career, but he decided to enter politics campaigning for the rights of those with special needs. Early into his rather unlikely parliamentary career, Romario played an important part in helping pass legislation to provide better welfare for the disabled.

But Romario has made the greatest noise in his campaign against the Brazilian football federation, the CBF. He was strident in his attacks on Ricardo Teixeira, the old president who stepped down last year, even describing him as a “cancer”. And, never cowed, Romario has been just as ferocious against his replacement, Jose Maria Marin.

Marin was a politician in the 1970s who has been accused of praising the secret police and, in particular, denouncing the work of TV Cultura, before the violent death in custody of its head, the journalist Vladimir Herzog. Romario has branded Marin’s relationship with the governing dictatorship of the time as “evil” and was instrumental in delivering a petition with 54,000 signatures to the CBF, campaigning for the removal of Marin.

Romario said that it made him sad “to see the CBF being passed from one crook to another” and Marin launched legal proceedings against him, but the veteran centre-forward will not shy away from controversy.

Romario sides with Brazil’s president, the socialist Dilma Rousseff, herself imprisoned at the hands of the regime in the early 1970s, and has said that he does not want to see her alongside Marin when the World Cup comes next year.

Ultimately, the World Cup is one of the most powerful forces in sport and there is not much that even one of the greatest strikers of the modern era can do to slow down its march. The finals in Brazil will happen, and bring changes with it, with all the inevitability of an event with that much money riding on it.

But Romario De Souza Faria, who played in 1990 and 1994, only missing 1998 through injury, will continue to make his case that not everything it brings is good, that the lives of ordinary and underprivileged Brazilians will be disrupted and that, even though Fifa promised “All in one rhythm” as their World Cup slogan, there are some voices that will be ignored.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home