KEIR RADNEDGE on a superstar’s new career twist
—- The roller-coaster, twin-track career of Romario in football and politics has been blown off course by his own passion for the cause of cleaning up the Brazilian game.
The 1994 World Cup-winner has had to quit the high-profile role as chairman of the parliamentary tourism commission after falling out with his own party over the vehemence of his attacks on the CBF, the national football federation.
Romario’s impatience with a string of coaches and directors marked a 23-year playing career which brought him 16 mainstream club titles with Vasco da Gama, Flamengo, PSV and Barcelona. He was also top player in the international game after finishing as Brazil’s five-goal top scorer in the World Cup-winning effort of 1994.
After retiring Romario turned to politics with spectacular effect, winning a Rio seat in Congress in 2010 for the Partido Socialista Brasileiro.
He has been a high-visibility critic of not only the CBF and its senior directors (from long-time cartola* Ricardo Teixeira to current president Jose Maria Marin) but also of FIFA and the terms of the World Cup hosting contract.
In mid-March Romario appeared to have secured a perfect platform to press his demands for organisational transparency ahead of the World Cup when he was appointed president of the Brazilian Sports and Tourism commission.
The commission commands a supervisory role over the allocation of state funds for sports and, in particular, Olympic projects. However PSB president Eduardo Campos became increasingly critical of Romario for ignoring the wider responsibility of the role as he pursued his ‘pet’ targets.
Romario had urged the CBF to reveal details of its long-term sponsorship by Nike, promoted a petition demanding Marin’s resignation, instigated a debate on the CBF’s links with the military in the 1980s and pushed for a parliamentary commission of investigation into the federation.
That was too much for Campos. Last week Romario resigned from the PSB in protest at a lack of party support. Thus he had no option but to resign his party-sponsored role as commission president.
Romario tweeted: “I have delivered my party resignation to the PSB’s Rio de Janeiro president, Alexandre Cardoso . . . Thank you all for your support.”
He has intimated a wish to stand for re-election to congress in next year’s elections for one of various other opposition parties which have made informal approaches. One is believed to have offered to propose Romario for a seat in the Sebate, the upper house.
In the meantime his departure from the sports and tourism commission has opened the way for the CBF to resume its representation. CBF delegate Vandenberg Machado had stayed away while Romario was in charge. The involvement of the CBF had been considered essential ahead of the World Cup.
New commission president Valadares Filho has promised to maintain Romario’s monitoring of public spending in preparation for the World Cup and Rio 2016 Olympics while stepping up tourism development and the promotion of sports activity among school children.
Romario, released to a free-wheeling role again as a ‘simple’ congressman, has maintained his assault on the CBF which is suspected of having played a role in forcing his exit from both the PSB and the sports/tourism commission.
His supporters do not think it coincidental that Romario was sidelined only days before the rejection of his demand for a parliamentary inquiry into the CBF’s financial affairs.
Romario’s proposal had been approved by congress with 178 votes, seven more than necessary. But it needed at least 27 votes in the upper house and fell narrowly short after a last-minute change of heart by four senators.
Angrily, he tweeted: “Those responsible for overcharging for World Cup work have escaped investigation. Scandalous!”
Whatever his status in the months leading up to the World Cup, Romario will not be silenced.
* Literally: top hat