But O Baixinho, or “the little one,” as he is known here in Brazil, had some interesting things to say about Brazil’s World Cup preparations today.
In an interview with the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, the former Vasco da Gama, Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven star moved way from earlier statements declaring that the 2014 tournament would be the best ever staged.
He said that while Brazil was still capable of making a decent job of hosting the competition, it will take divine intervention for Brazil to prepare a truly great Cup.
“If (Jesus) comes back to earth sometime in the next three years, then it’ll be possible,” he said.
Romário also criticised Ricardo Teixeira, the all powerful head of the Brazilian Football Confederation, and suggested the 64-year old hand over the tournament organisation to a younger man.
“It isn’t good for him, maybe even because of his age,” he said. “I’d put someone else in there, like they did with Henrique Meirelles for the Olympics.”
Romário also said he would pressure Teixeira to come before Congress and explain accusations made by the English FA that he solicited bribes in return for Brazil’s backing for the 2018 tournament.
“There’s a new allegation every day and it’s getting stranger and stranger,” he said. “If I was Ricardo Teixeira, I’d come here and respond. Even if he isn’t the one responsible for any irregularity or for the slowness in preparations, his is face of Brazil’s World Cup and he has to make himself available. If he doesn’t answer then I will not only not take my name of the list of deputies seeking a Congressional enquiry, I will work to get other deputies to put their names on it too.”
Romario’s statements comes as concern grows over the slowness of preparations, particularly at airports and at stadiums in São Paulo and Natal. The country’s airports are so bad that Pele called them “frightening.”
Meanwhile, pathetic infighting and personal vendettas led by Teixeira meant that São Paulo abandoned the idea of using the Morumbi to host the opening match and instead decided to host it at Corinthians new stadium. However, the stadium has yet to be built and costs have been estimated at over 1 billion reais.
Brazil waited a whole year before it even decided which cities would host the matches and it eventually chose more venues than is normal in a bid to curry favour with more mayors – and cynics would say earn more in kickbacks.
The former striker’s comments were made just days after the government tried to push through a law that would enable it to keep World Cup spending secret. It was widely seen as the clearest attempt so far to abrogate its past promises that it would not channel public funds into paying for games infrastructure. After a small outcry and Senate vows to veto the bill, the government withdrew it.
As a player, Romário was well known for his controversial and sometime witty statements. But he has been failry reserved since taking office as a Congressman earlier this year.
He clearly knows football – he scored close to 1000 goals in a career that spanned almost 20 years – and doors will open for him because of his standing in the game.
It’s nice to see him speaking out against Teixeira, the most Machiavellian of all Brazil’s politicos. I hope he continues to beat the drum for more transparency. I am not holding my breath.