SAO PAULO (AFP) - Football great Romario, now a socialist lawmaker, has expressed scepticism about the benefits of the 2014 World Cup for Brazilians.
In an op-ed carried in the Folha de Sao Paulo daily Saturday, the former FC Barcelona striker and 1994 World Cup winner said "Brazil will not take advantage of the full potential of the Cup." The 47-year-old former star pointed to a television commercial that highlights the frustration felt by the Brazilian public in the face of the country's daunting infrastructure problems.
"The pessimism of Brazilians is based on facts: the inability of decision-makers to plan generates delays in countless projects and raises the cost of the Cup," he noted. He also cited press reports of plans to forcibly evict 170,000 people to make way for urban development projects for the World cup and the 2016 Rio summer Olympics.
"I can say with conviction that a country is good for tourists only if it is first good for its own people," Romario said. "I am certain that Brazilians will be disappointed to see yet another wasted opportunity to improve the country's quality of life," he added.
Early last year, he said Brazil would not be "100 per cent ready" for the World Cup, as work on some stadiums and on public transportation projects will not be completed in time.
But fellow soccer star Ronaldo, a member of Brazil's Local Organization Committee for the Cup, struck an upbeat note.
In his own op-ed carried by Folha de Sao Paulo, he cited a survey by the Sponsorship Intelligence firm showing that 70 per cent of Brazilians consulted were proud that the country will host the mega sporting event and believed it "will have a positive impact."
Ronaldo said staging the event will "affect the self-esteem of Brazilians and bring about a change of mentality." "Yes, we can organise the Cup. Yes, it is good for Brazil and Brazilians," he added.
Ronaldo, 36, scored both goals when Brazil beat Germany 2-0 to win the 2002 World Cup final in Japan and, after spells with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan, retired from football in 2011.