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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones