Soccer Star Romario: FIFA is Robbing Brazil

PHOTO: Romario (with trophy) and the Brazilian team celebrate after winning the 1994 FIFA World Cup Final. Now Romario is leading the Brazilian government in a fight against the FIFA.

Ben Radford/Getty Images

Soccer star Romario de Souza Faria made his millions playing soccer for the national Brazilian team. But now he's accusing FIFA of stealing from the country.

Known as Romario, a striker on the national team, he's the second top scorer in the history of Brazilian soccer. But while his skills on the field are envied, he’s known for partying before the games.

In 2010, Romario went from playing soccer to playing politics, becoming a congressman in Rio de Janeiro. Since then he’s spoken out about the international soccer event, calling FIFA corrupt, and criticizing the organization’s secretary general Jerome Valcke and president Sepp Blatter for having too much autonomy and power in a country that is not their own.

How does someone who benefited from the World Cup oppose FIFA so passionately?

The Brazilian government has invested in building and renovating 12 stadiums across Brazil, which had a projected cost of nearly $3 billion. So far, the Local Organizing Committee (COL) that oversees whether the stadiums meet FIFA’s specifications has reported spending more than $340 million extra. That doesn’t even include the costs of fixing one stadium that had a deadly collapse last month.

Half of the stadiums do not seem to be able to meet the December 31, 2013 deadline. FIFA has extended that deadline to February 2014.

It is estimated that FIFA, a non-profit based in Switzerland, will make up to $4 billion. And it doesn't have to pay taxes on that money in Brazil or in Switzerland.

While federal prosecutors have begun the process of filing suit against FIFA, which may save about $546 million by blocking the use of public funds on World Cup related construction, it hasn’t appeased regular citizens. It is expected that many will take to the streets like they did earlier this year during the Confederation Cup, asking for better quality public services and less government corruption.

Even Romario encourages protesting and disses Brazilian legend Pele who asked protesters to back down in this epic video. He asked citizens to do so during the World Cup, which begins June 2014.

Nearly 700 families in Rio alone, mostly in low-income communities, have been displaced by World Cup-related construction. Only about half of them received help in moving to a new home. Those who didn’t accept any compensation package were evicted.

But there are 12 stadiums in different cities and states. That means there could be up to 1.5 million families displaced in total, as reported by The Guardian.

Romario is no stranger to the life many of these people live. He grew up in a Rio slum called Jacarezinho.

He shared his sentiments in an interview with The New York Times:

“You see hospitals with people on the floor. You see schools that don’t have lunch for the kids. You see schools with no air-conditioning, where kids are going to school in 45 degrees Celsius,” or 113 degrees Fahrenheit. He continued: “You see buildings and schools with no accessibility for people who are handicapped. If you spend 30 percent less on the stadiums, they’d be able to improve the other things that actually matter.”

Does he really care about the people or is he just playing politics?

If his argument doesn’t convince you, consider that he didn’t have to become an influential politician.

He could have joined the Local Organizing Committee like former teammate Ronaldo, who has always been the more likable personality. Or become a talking head and guest of honor like Pele, who holds the world record for most goals scored throughout his career.

Instead, it can be argued that he chooses to fight for improving Brazilians’ quality of life, as opposed to the quality of one sporting experience.

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