After a career spanning more than 20 years that has yielded, by his own calcuations, 1,000 goals, Brazilian legend Romario is preparing to hang up his scoring boots. One of the most charismatic players of his generation, the 41-year-old sharpshooter is keen to pursue new challenges, while staying involved with the beautiful game.
O Baixinho (Shorty), currently a member of FIFA's Technical and Development Committee, was part of the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) delegation that visited FIFA headquarters on Tuesday to present their official candidature as hosts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™. During his stay in Zurich, the Vasco striker spoke to FIFA.com about his footballing career, the current Brazilian national team, what it meant to score his 1,000th goal and his country's plans for 2014.
FIFA.com: Romario, the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014... How does that sound? Romario: Interesting. It would mean a great deal to our country, not only from a footballing point of view but from a political, economical and educational perspective too. We all hope that, from the moment FIFA decide the 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil, a lot of things will change for the better. It's going to be very important for the Brazilian people as a whole. A World Cup in Brazil is really something.
When the talk turns to which Brazilian stadiums will be used to host the event, the ones that spring to mind are the Mineirao, the Morumbi and of course the Maracana. Even so, the CBF intend to construct four new stadiums in the north east and renovate grounds across the whole country. If these plans were implemented, would Brazil be totally ready to host the 2014 competition?
It's true that we've got a lot of stadiums in Brazil. Besides the Maracana, the Morumbi and the Mineirao, we've got many other football grounds in other regions. But there's still plenty of work and renovations needed, even at those three. In any case, we'd have seven years between now and 2014 to get everything done, and by that time the stadiums would be in perfect order to host the competition.
Fans of the Seleção were left celebratinganother title success after July's Copa America. What did you make of the team's performance in Venezuela and which players caught your eye?Whenever Brazil win a competition, for us Brazilians it's always an excuse for a party. We have so many problems back home that it's not going too far to say that the Brazilian national team is one of the few things we can be happy about. The team in Venezuela wasn't our strongest side, because three of four key players weren't there, but it was a good team. I think that the two most outstanding players were Juan and Robinho. In my opinion they were the ones who put in the best performances.
*The national team is now in the hands of your USA 1994-winning team-mate Dunga. Did you know back then that he was destined to become a coach and how do you feel his first year in the job has gone? * It's been a surprise, but a very pleasant one, to see Dunga in charge of the Seleção. Besides which it's a source of personal pride for me, because we played together in the national team for many years, as well as for Vasco da Gama. As a person, Dunga is very professional and has a strong personality. He's just starting out as a coach and has won his first official competition. He's a born winner and I think he's going to achieve many great things with the national side.
*Brazil's success in Venezuela qualified them for the next FIFA Confederations Cup, which is a competition you made a great impact in back in 1997. While Brazil won the title in Saudi Arabia, the headlines went to the thrilling *Ro-Ro attack. What made the partnership between you and Ronaldo so unstoppable during its short existence? ** We've always got on well, especially out on the pitch. We had the opportunity and the honour to play alongside some very technically gifted, top-class footballers, and that made our job easier.
*Ronaldo is one of several players you have formed memorable double acts with over the years, the others being Roberto Dinamite, Wim Kieft, Hristo Stoichkov, Bebeto, Sávio, Edmundo, Euller and Alex Dias - if you had to single one out as your ideal strike partner who would it be? * (Without hesitation) Bebeto. Together we won the 1994 World Cup, having helped Brazil qualify for that tournament. We won a Copa America and played many games together for Vasco da Gama. He was my finest accomplice out on the pitch because we knew each other so well. We had a near-telepathic understanding. That's why I'd choose Bebeto.
*From dream partnerships let us now talk about to dream teams. An incessant topic of debate in your homeland is whether the Brazil side of 1958, 1970 or 1982 was superior. If you had to choose, which would you go for? * The only one I saw first-hand was the 1982 team. I never saw the 58 team play and I was just four at the time of the 70 side. From what I know and have heard from football experts, the 1970 side was the best Brazil team ever. I'll stick with that team and the likes of Pele, Rivelino, Jairzinho...
*According to your own calculations, you scored your 1,000th goal in May 2007. It seemed as though the whole world was willing you on: Pele, Diego Maradona, Carlos Alberto Parreira, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Dunga, Edmundo, Thierry Henry, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho all urged you to reach the milestone. How did it feel to finally emulate Pele and accomplish the feat? * It's really quite moving to achieve something like reaching the 1,000-goal mark. Personally, and as a footballer, that was my life's greatest aim. I enjoyed the fact that people were following my attempt, which didn't just mean a lot to me but also to Vasco da Gama, to Brazil and to everybody. I'm the second person to achieve this feat and it's a real honour. I feel very happy. I feel 100-percent fulfilled, speaking as a footballer.
And what does the future hold for Romario, the player?To be honest, I've not got much of a future as a player (smiles). I've got a few games left in me; I'm not sure how many. I'm sure I'll carry on until December this year, when my contract with Vasco da Gama runs out. The thing is I've done it all as a player. I'm happy and now I have to get on with the rest of my life. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do (when I retire) but it will definitely be football-related. Would you be interested in a move into coaching?No, no... not coaching. But I'm sure I'll carry on working within football.