Romário: From football superstar to champion of Brazil’s children

March 13, 2012

Mac Margolis – Newsweek,03/12/2012

Romario de Souza Faria. Illustration by Montse Bernal.

The irrepressible football hero could have settled into cushy retirement, but his daughter showed him he had more urgent things to do.

In a banker’s gray suit, his hair flecked with white, the little man behind the desk is barely recognizable. Only the signature lisp and the slightly bloodshot, droopy right eye betray him as the Brazilian football legend. Romário is back—but not on the pitch, where the diminutive striker feinted and danced, leading Brazil to the fourth of its five World Cup titles in 1994. Now he’s in Brasília, the country’s wind-swept capital, where the junior Socialist Party representative from Rio is working the phones the way he used to work other teams’ backfields.

The town could use a superstar. With the 2014 World Cup approaching fast, and Brazil’s global cachet in play, construction on stadiums, hotels, and mass transit is badly lagging. The delays have embarrassed the country and set Brasília and FIFA, the international football authority, at dagger point, and yet Congress has still not voted on the ground rules for the planet’s biggest sports event. “Brazil is not going to be ready,” the pint-size giant says. “We’ve known the World Cup was coming for more than four years, but only now has the government woken up.”

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