Brazilian soccer heroes look to politics

After lengthy soccer careers that included stints with teams in Brazil, Europe, Japan and Saudi Arabia, the two former strikers now are hoping to use their recognition among Brazilian voters to propel themselves into political offices.

Romario de Souza Faria, 44, kicked off his political aspirations a year ago by joining the Brazilian Socialist Party, which is allied with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government.
The party fielded him as a national congressional candidate for the Oct 3 elections.

"For me, the goal of politics is very simple: I was born in a shanty town and I know what those children need," Romario said during a political rally in Petropolis, 66 km from Rio.
"Without any type of pretentiousness on my part, I felt I had done all I could in soccer and I brought joy to many Brazilians with my dribbling and my goals. Now is the time to show that I am also the best in the political arena," Romario said.

For his part, Jose Roberto Gama de Oliveira, popularly known as "Bebeto", joined the ranks of the Democratic Labor Party last October, and is competing for a seat in the Rio de Janeiro state legislature.

The former star of Spain's Royal Sporting Club of La Coruña also is counting on support from fans who fondly remember Brazil's fourth World Cup title, which came at the 1994 tournament in the US.

Bebeto says he never planned to enter politics. "When I heard talk about corruption, lies and many other scandals, it sapped my motivation," he said.

But the 46-year-old former striker said friends, relatives and colleagues urged him to run because they saw in him "the family values and ethical behaviour that should precede any desire to participate in politics".

Like Romario, Bebeto has promised to introduce sports into school policies and invest in high-level programmes to train athletes for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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