The date 20 May 2007 will go down in football history after one of the game's greatest ever exponents realised one of its greatest goalscoring achievements. In a 3-1 win over Sport in the Brazilian Championship, according to his 'personal count', Vasco's Romario netted the 1,000th goal of a career that has spanned 22 years, stretched across five continents and returned a stunning collection of titles.
Following four failed attempts at the Maracana stadium, the
spiritual home of Brazilian football and the scene of so many of
Romario's grandest performances,
O Baixinho elected to switch his pursuit of the landmark
goal to the Sao Januario, Vasco's home stadium, for the visit
A vibrant crowd populated the Rio de Janeiro venue in anticipation of the 41-year-old emulating the great Pele and reaching quadruple figures, and when the ageless predator's chance arrived in the 48th minute, he did not disappoint, dinking home a penalty, which sent goalkeeper Magrao the wrong way, with typical nonchalance.
Romario followed the ball into the net, seizing it for his son Romarinho, but he immediately became engulfed in a colossal melee, as members of the media from all corners of the globe engaged in the unenviable struggle to get within hearing distance of the man of the moment. With his family and friends rushing on to the pitch to greet him, cameramen snapping incessantly, and innumerable reporters jostling for position, the iconic Carioca spoke up.
Tears of joy
"I had the opportunity to reach this landmark not just for me, my parents and my family, but for the whole world," said Romario, tears of joy streaming down his face. "It was God who wanted the goal to go in today. This is an extraordinary moment in my life.
"It's a great pleasure to reach this landmark, which only one player has managed," he continued, referring to his compatriot Pele. "In individual terms, it's the biggest achievement of my career. I dedicate this to my family, my children. I'm so emotional. It's all too much, I can't say a lot now but I will say more later on. For now, thank you. Thanks so much to all of you."
Amid euphoric scenes, Romario was embraced by his mother, who had somehow managed to navigate her way through the ocean of figures swarming her son. He instinctively handed Dona Lita the shirt off his back, which was replaced by a commemorative jersey.
It was somewhat ironic that Romario should post the 1,000th goal of his career for Vasco, the team that had fallen victim to Pele's milestone goal for Santos on 19 November 1969. In further twists of coincidence, the pair both experienced frustration in their attempts to reach the landmark, before finally hitting the jackpot from the penalty spot.
O Rei was stuck on 999 goals for six matches, while Romario reached the aforementioned figure in the 78th minute of a 3-0 win over Flamengo on 25 March, spurned a fine chance to make history during the same match, and then drew blanks in a meeting with Gama and two matches against Botafogo.
Like Pele, whose popularly recognised career total of 1,281 contains goals scored in unofficial matches, Romario's 'personal count' is not exclusive to his exploits in official games. In fact, he openly includes 77 goals he scored at youth level and a further 21 in friendly and testimonial matches.
The bulk of Romario's haul, however, did arrive in accredited matches, with his native Brazil playing witness to a majority. He marked 324 goals for Vasco, in excess of 200 for Flamengo, and a further 48 for a third Rio giant Fluiminense. Over in Europe, he netted 165 times in 167 appearances for PSV Eindhoven and surpassed the half century mark for Barcelona.
North American territory also provoked success for the legendary No11. In his recent spell at Miami FC, he finished as the 2006 United Soccer Leagues' leading marksman and it was in the United States, of course, that Romario's goals propelled the Seleção to their fourth FIFA World Cup™ crown in 1994. His quintet of strikes during the tournament made up some of the 55 he netted for his country in official matches.
In spite of a career awash with personal honours, Romario never attempted to conceal his desire to reach the 1000-goal mark. Now he can now look forward to retirement having accomplished the feat.
In doing so, he helped his side make it maximum points from two games in the 2007 Brasileiro. But on a historic night in Rio de Janeiro, Vasco's victory was secondary - the night belonged to one man and one man only.
Romario de Souza Farias, the footballing world salutes you.