FIFA.com: What did each of the FIFA World Cups you played
in mean to you personally and professionally?
Romario: I stopped being an ordinary person. From the moment I'd played at a World Cup, I became more aware of things that, prior to the World Cups, hadn't concerned me, and I therefore became Romario, the public figure. I was involved at the World Cup in 1990, which, unfortunately, I have to add to my CV. Not because it was a bad World Cup, on the contrary, it was a great honour to have played at that World Cup. But for me personally it wasn't so positive, as sadly I only got to play 45 minutes, against Ireland if I'm not mistaken (Editor's note: Romario played for 65 minutes in Brazil's final group game against Scotland). After all, I only managed to get a little taste of the World Cup, so to speak. There's no doubt that 1994 was the greatest year of my life, professionally speaking, because I hadn't yet been able to play a full World Cup campaign and I was privileged enough to play in all seven games. Those games wrote themselves into the history of Brazilian football forever, the story of that squad is also my story. I'm very happy and grateful for that.
I think that every footballer understands that if they wish to reach their full potential, professionally speaking, they need to appear at a World Cup. I was fortunate enough to play one full World Cup and 45 minutes of another. I think that those 45 minutes were a valuable experience. I got the very pleasant feeling of having helped, even if only for a few days, to make our long-suffering people happy. The Brazilian public takes football very seriously, and at that moment, 24 years after our last title, we needed a World Cup win, and that's what happened. When we arrived back in Brazil, we saw a joy on Brazilians' faces that had not been there before, especially for the younger generation, who had never seen Brazil crowned champions. That's another reason why I feel I've been a success in my professional life, and your personal life automatically follows suit.
What's the difference between the FIFA World Cup and the other competitions you had already played in?
The World Cup is a unique event, not only in football, but also in the world of sport. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it has the largest audience of any sports event in the world. Football is the most-played and best-loved sport on the planet, and when you get to a World Cup, you set yourself apart from those who have never had and never will have the opportunity to play there. It's a unique moment in a player's career, the chance to be seen by millions and to have the honour and pleasure of pulling on your country's shirt and fighting for national pride, all the while knowing that if you win, you'll be making millions of people happy, if only for a few moments. I think these are the most important things about a World Cup.
What is your earliest childhood memory of the FIFA World Cup?
The first World Cup I remember a bit about as a youngster was the 1982 edition. I was born in 1966 and four years later Brazil won the 1970 Cup. Unfortunately my only memories of that are from clips I later saw on television. I was eight when the 1974 tournament came round and still only 12 in 1978. It was only in 1982 that I really begin to see the World Cup differently, because that's when I began playing football for a club here in Brazil. Olaria it was, they're in the second division now. Then I began to appreciate the World Cup more, because that was when one of the best teams in Brazilian history came together to compete for the world title.
My 45-minute involvement at the 1990 World Cup made me certain that a World Cup has a definitive impact on the life and career of a footballer. The atmosphere is different, the surroundings are different. There's a lot more anxiety than at any other competition. People get much more nervous and everyone has to be 100 percent responsible. I believe that at a World Cup you have to put everything else to one side. If you're having problems in your personal or professional life, you have to put them to one side to be able to concentrate, to focus 10 percent on the World Cup. Those are the differences between a World Cup and other competitions.
In 1994, it was 24 years since Brazil had won the World Cup. Do you think that team paved the way for later sides?
Of course. That generation made history after a 24-year wait. It opened doors, and blazed a trail for a new generation to follow. Some of the players on today's team were with us then, and they directly or indirectly contributed a lot to that victory. So, I can say with certainty that the current generation are grateful for our 1994 victory, just as future generations will be.
In the opening phase of the competition, you scored three times in three games. Was that a target you had set for yourself?
When I set off from Brazil to go and play at the World Cup, I felt very confident that the squad had all the ingredients necessary to be crowned world champions, because they had come through some very tough times during qualifying. I joined the squad a bit later, in the final game. That week I came to understand what the squad had been through during that period. It was a squad of players who were ready to write their names in world footballing history, and especially in Brazilian footballing history. In my opinion, when you win a World Cup you differentiate yourself from those players who've merely played in a World Cup. That generation of players had that aim in mind, aware of all the obstacles that the squad would have to face during the World Cup.
Technically, we weren't a great team, but we were united. The group was very strong. Coach Parreira was a guy who knew how to communicate, who was very open to giving and receiving information. A very good coaching team was put together and, thanks to the support of many others, this generation of players got ahead. I'm talking about the support of people behind the scenes, like the cooks, the kit-men, the masseuses, the physiotherapists, the doctors. A very select group was assembled, and everyone was made aware of the effort required of them if we were to win. I'm sure that every one of these 30 or 35 people are fully aware that victory was achieved not because of eleven or even 22 players, but because of everybody involved. Mentally we were up for it from start to finish, and I thank God we achieved something historic for ourselves, for Brazil and for football itself.
Which FIFA World Cup goals do you remember most and why?
As I said before, I scored three goals in the first phase, one in each game. A goal that was very important to me was the first against Russia, because it was my first World Cup goal and came in the very first game. That said, the most important goal, because of when it was scored and the difficulty involved, was against Holland when Bebeto reached the by-line, down the left-hand side, and crossed the ball in. I struck the ball with the "bate pronto", an expression that means hitting it with the instep, which is a bit more difficult than side footing the ball. It was an important goal because of how much it meant at that moment, and because it was a goal that set us up for another victory on our way to the Final, or at least the semi-final.
Many experts feel the Brazil - Netherlands clash was the best game of USA 94. Would you agree?
I don't know if it was the best game, but it certainly was our most difficult. Although we were winning 2-0, Holland weren't intimidated and came back at us, pulling one back and then missing two or three chances shortly afterwards. We were reeling a little in the face of this Dutch onslaught, so to speak, but we soon recovered and the game went back to normal. We won 2-1, but it could have been a draw or Holland could have turned the game around. (Ed's Note: The Netherlands equalised to make it 2-2 but Brazil went on to win 3-2). That wouldn't have been unfair either, since both teams played good football, pushing forward and always trying to score.
In my opinion, that was the most difficult game of the World Cup. Others disagree and say our hardest game was against the United States, because we played with ten men for a good part of the game after Leonardo was sent off, and on a historic date for the United States, the 4th of July. With all that pressure, some players say that it was the most difficult game, but in my opinion, it was the one against Holland.
The Netherlands game also provided Bebeto's unforgettable goal celebration. How did that come about?
That was a unique moment for Bebeto. If I'm not mistaken, his wife was pregnant or had just had the baby at that time, and it was a quite an interesting celebration. He invented that on the spur of the moment. He scored the goal and started doing it. Mazinho, who was next to him, joined him and I, being next to arrive, just had to follow suit. The three of us made that gesture together, which left quite an impression on that World Cup.
At what point during that tournament did you become convinced that Brazil would become world champions?
I know it's very easy to say this ten years later, but I was always certain that Brazil would be champions because, as I said before, I was in the form of my life, and I had the perfect strike partner in Bebeto. Brazil's midfield was made up of players who weren't very technical, but they did their jobs extremely well and were very intelligent. We also had a defence that didn't give away goals easily and, in my opinion, one of the best goalkeepers of all time in Taffarel.
We also had an excellent set of substitutes, with players who could have performed as well as or better than the starting eleven. That's why I knew we'd win that title. The proof of this is in all the pre-tournament interviews I gave in Brazil during which I always said that it would be Brazil's World Cup and that, God willing, it would also be my World Cup. And it all came to pass.
You got the only goal of the semi-final from a header. What do you remember about that?
That was an unforgettable goal when you think about it. You had me, at just 1.68 metres tall, rising to score with a header between a clutch of Swedish players who were famous for their average height of around 1.83 or 1.84 metres. That's pretty unusual in football, even more so in World Cup and especially in a semi-final. Jorginho had the good fortune to pick me out perfectly, and with God's help I was able to get my head on the ball, leaving the keeper unable to react in time.
That goal put Brazil into the Final. It was a very difficult game, but with the team we had, it worked out all right. The games we won were all close, hard-fought games. The first victory was 3-0 or 3-1 (Ed's Note: it was actually 2-0 against Russia) and the other games were also very difficult. However, we got to the Final aware that if we produced the kind of football that we'd been playing until then, that is to say, knowing when to restrict the opposition's ability to manoeuvre, then counter-attacking with Bebeto and I, that we would prevail. And that's what happened.
You had a great partnership going with Bebeto. How did that come about?
We'd been playing together since the Olympics in 1988 in Seoul and had already lined up together in several other competitions. So we understood each other very well. When Brazil were working on tactics in training, Bebeto and I didn't have to participate very much. We trained separately, because we already knew each other so well. Bebeto was always an extremely intelligent player. He greatly facilitated my attacking moves, which is why we always had such a great understanding.
With regard to the Final against Italy, a repeat of 1970, many people thought this would be a duel between you and Baggio. Was that how you saw it, and was there anything said between the two of you on the day?
We didn't have a chance to talk. We just greeted each other, as everyone does before a game, especially in a World Cup. Of course, if we had won the Final by at least a goal, the win would have had a different flavour. Even though it finished 0-0 and we won on penalty kicks, it was an easier game than the Holland one. I should have scored, so should Mazinho, and Italy had a chance too. In fact, it was not a pretty game. In my opinion, technically speaking, it wasn't worthy of a World Cup Final, especially as we're talking about two schools of football, the Brazilian and the Italian, which are the best in the world.
As I said, Brazil were ready to go all the way and did so on penalties. That's why I'm here today talking about it. For you to win, the other team has to lose. That's part of sport. That day we were fortunate that three of them missed from the spot, and so Brazil became world champions. It's an honour and source of pride for me to be here speaking to you about it.
Parreira said that when he was choosing the players to take the penalty kicks, you volunteered. How did that come about?
Up until that point I'd only taken one or maybe two penalties in my life. There were five players in that team who were always practising and who, in theory, would be the penalty-takers. That said, at that moment in time I felt it was my duty, since I'd already done many things for myself and the national team. That was the moment when we players had more responsibility than any other time in the tournament. It was time to prove that I was now a mature player, who was there to face up to challenges. So I volunteered myself, was fortunate enough that Parreira agreed, and went on to score one of the goals that helped Brazil win a title that meant so much.
What goes through a player's mind as he walks from the centre circle to the penalty spot?
I think a lot depends on the moment, you know, what competition it is, what game. On that occasion, I was more focused than I've ever been in my life. I walked about 50 paces and, while I was walking, various thoughts flashed through my mind: my childhood, my parents, my friends, and the importance of winning that title for the people of Brazil. As I took the ball and placed it on the spot, all these thoughts were swirling around my head. It was an enormous responsibility, having to kick the ball, a piece of leather, and be responsible for making a nation happy or sad. Thank God I, and the rest of the guys, were fortunate enough to make our countrymen smile.
What was your first thought when Baggio missed their final kick?
It was of having done my job and, more than anything, of having kept my word, since I'd promised that Brazil would be the champions. When I say "I", I mean to say that this only came about because the squad all helped each other. Whatever I may have done at that World Cup - and in my opinion, I put in the best performance of my life in that tournament - I only achieved what I did because of the strength of the squad. They helped me 100 percent. So, when I say "I", I'm referring to the entire squad who did what they had to do and took a giant stride towards being part of world football history.
How did it feel to be alongside Dunga when he raised the Cup in the air?
That moment is beyond compare. It's a magical moment in life that will stay with us forever. I don't know if it was Dunga or Branco who said: "Stay here, when I get hold of the Trophy, you can grab it as well." That's a moment that people can't put into words. It's fantastic, it's thrilling, the feeling's incomparable! Only those who hold that Trophy, who lift it, who experience that moment, get to feel that. Thanks to the grace of God, I had that pleasure.
What did the squad do once they took the Cup back to the dressing room? We all did something. I must have taken about 3,000 thousand photos with it, and kissed and hugged it almost as often. That was the achievement of a generation, our generation, which had been on the receiving end of so much hardship, scorn and criticism. That was the result of everything we went through to show the world that we were a generation of winners.
It's a part of my life now.
How does it feel to hold it again now?
The first thing I have to say is that it's cold, and heavy. Knowing that I once raised this in the air is an honour. It was glorious.
If you saw the Trophy in a museum, how would you describe it aesthetically?
Aesthetically, it represents football perfectly. It's an object that should be kept somewhere where nobody can touch it; only admire how perfect it is.
When you played in that Final, what did you think when you saw the Trophy so close to the pitch?
To be honest, when the game began I didn't have a chance to see it, as I was concentrating so hard. But near the end, I glanced at it, and something told me that it was there just waiting to be raised by Brazil. As I said before, we achieved something historic in everybody's lives, especially our own.
Can you tell us about the reaction on the streets of Brazil on your return?
What I saw were the streets of Brazil filled with ecstatic people. To a downtrodden nation, that win was like a plate of food for someone who is starving. I saw happiness etched on people's faces, at least for those few moments, and that's something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.