I saw the work you see below from a moderate distance during a brief evening walk the other night on my way back home before curfew began. It naturally caught my eye and so I wandered across for a closer look, trying to figure out if it was the shutters for a Brazilian restaurant or bar or similar. But upon returning today with my camera to grab a photo, it transpired that the property is for sale. If it ever was a place of business, it sure isn’t currently.
Following a 5 year spell at PSV Eindhoven, Romário de Souza Faria played two full seasons with Johan Cruyff’s FC Barcelona from 1993 to 1995. The first season was particularly special; the clinical Brazilian scored 32 goals in 33 appearances on the way to the La Liga crown that year. Furthermore 1994 was the year that Romário became a true global star – a feat no doubt largely accomplished by Brazil’s triumph at that year’s FIFA World Cup. That said, success in Spanish also definitely contributed to his stardom. Romário would eventually return to Brazil to ply his trade with subsequent stints in Qatar, the USA and Australia in the twilight years of his outstanding 24 year career at a senior level.
Though he has won many accolades and frequently features in “greatest 100 players of all time” lists and rankings, Romário’s global standing among the greats of the game seems to be on the decline, certainly when compared to the likes of Maradona, Pelé, Puskás and indeed Cruyff. When was the last time you spoke about him? The reason may purely be thanks to the fact that such a relatively large portion of his career was spent in Brazil and away from the attention of the European media. Yet in his native country, the man’s star is anything but fading, though curiously the career choices he made after hanging up his boots have arguably made him more of an icon than anything he accomplished while wearing them did.
In 2010, Senator de Souza Faria made the unlikely move from professional sports into politics. Continuously representing left-wing parties (albeit changing party allegiance in the process), Romário was elected into Brazil’s senate in 2014 and once again in 2017. And the respect and admiration many of his compatriots held for him as a consequence of his sporting achievements has not dwindled. The astute and compassionate senator has not become engulfed in scandal or promised the heavens to the electorate for the sake of their votes. In a country where popular regard for their politicians is at an all time low, Romário stands tall as a disciplined and moral figurehead that people can feel proud of – a man who reminded the world of what Brazilians do best and who is doing his best to be what Brazil needs.
Barcelona has welcomed countless of the world’s best players over time. Some become eternal icons – immortal in the eyes of adoring fans. Some retreat into relative obscurity in spite of whatever extraordinary greatness that the statistics may suggest. At least one nameless person in the city continues to honour a legend like no other. Romário’s favoured number 11 above the Flamengo club colours serves as a tribute to the man whose international profile peaked when he lived and worked in the city.