Football Football

Romario, Bebeto fight over World Cup


ROMARIO-WCUPRIO DE JANEIRO, May 22- As team-mates they brought home the 1994 World Cup for Brazil, but as politicians Romario and Bebeto have become bitter rivals over the hosting of this year’s tournament.

Romario de Souza Faria — better known as simply Romario — was the wild child of the pair, known for all-night parties and a hot temper.

As a congressman for Rio de Janeiro, the 48-year-old Romario has turned that explosive personality against the World Cup, backing the protesters who say the $11 billion-plus budget would have been better spent on education, health and transport.

FIFA, football’s world governing body, have been the target of some of his fiercest criticism. In March he called their secretary general Jerome Valcke a “blackmailer” and their president Sepp Blatter a “corrupt thief and son of a whore.”

Last year, when violent protests overshadowed the Confederations Cup, a rehearsal for the World Cup, Romario voiced sympathy for the movement and accused FIFA of “setting up a circus, not spending a cent and then pocketing everything.”

He has also criticised Brazil’s chronically delayed preparations, saying the country will not be “100-percent ready” for the World Cup when it starts on June 12.

Bebeto — real name Jose Roberto Gama de Oliveira — is now a Rio state legislator, fighting in the opposite corner.

The sweet-smiled evangelical Christian is known for his visits to schools and social programmes — but also for his love of luxury cars and designer clothes.

An ambassador for the World Cup in Brazil, he has shrugged off criticism of the event.

“We have struggled hard to get where we are. And where we are is the result of the struggle and efforts of all Brazilians,” the 50-year-old said in December.

– ‘I love you’ –

Their shared story began in the late 1980s, two young forwards in a team that became national heroes as they went unbeaten for 27 matches.

Their first taste of defeat came at the 1990 World Cup, when arch-rivals Argentina sent them packing in the round of 16.