Former footballers Romario and Bebeto score again; win seats in Brazil's parliament

Former World Cup winners Romario (above) and Bebeto were among the footballers elected to Brazil's parliament in elections over the weekend, further proof that the beautiful game is on the minds of Brazilians even when they step into a polling booth.
Former World Cup winners Romario (above) and Bebeto were among the footballers elected to Brazil's parliament in elections over the weekend, further proof that the beautiful game is on the minds of Brazilians even when they step into a polling booth. -- ST PHOTO: AIDAH RAUF

Former World Cup winners Romario and Bebeto were among the footballers elected to Brazil's parliament in elections over the weekend, further proof that the beautiful game is on the minds of Brazilians even when they step into a polling booth.

Romario, who was a deputy in the lower house, was elected to the Senate with 4.7 million votes, 63 per cent of the total cast, crushing his nearest rival by more than 3 million votes in the election on Sunday.

Bebeto, his striking partner when Brazil won the World Cup in 1994, won election to the state parliament of Rio de Janeiro.

Other winners heading from the football pitch to political pulpit included Mario Jardel, who had been a striker with FC Porto, along with former goalkeepers Joao Leite and Danrlei. The latter, who played for Gremio until 2003, polled more votes than anyone in his race in winning re-election to a second term in the national parliament.

Even the former president of Sao Paulo club Corinthians, Andres Sanchez, pulled in the votes as he was elected to the lower house for the Workers' Party.

Both Romario and Bebeto were strikers for Brazil when it won its fourth World Cup title in 1994 in the United States in 1994.

Romario had been outspoken about his country's much-criticised organisation of this year's World Cup. Bebeto used campaign posters touting his contribution to the 1994 cup victory

According to Bloomberg News, Brazil's elections often feature a colourful array of candidates ranging from reality TV stars, musicians and actors, as well as ordinary politicians. Thus it is not unusual to see football superstars switch to the political arena as well.

"Football is very high in media coverage and these guys receive much more space than other candidates because they are really important celebrities," Bloomberg reported Amir Somoggi, who is a business consultant to several teams in Brazil's top league, as saying. "They are idols to many people who vote them into the most important spaces in politics."

As in football itself, however, not all of them are winners.

Marcelinho Carioca, who played for the Sao Paulo-based Corinthians, one of the two best-supported teams in Brazil, lost.