Weeping Romario moved by public affection
Brazilian veteran Romario wept on Thursday as he thanked the public on for supporting his bid to win back a place in the national team and said that public displays of affection meant more to him than winning the World Cup.
The 36-year-old, who says that his dream is to play one more World Cup, has not been picked for Brazil since July despite finishing as top-scorer in last year's Brazilian championship and averaging a goal a game this year.
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has joined the campaign to have Romario reinstated but Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has so far remained defiant in the face of public opinion, saying the 1994 World Cup hero has been left out for "tactical and technical reasons".
"I have always been aware that Brazilians have affection for me but I didn't know it was as much as this," Romario told reporters at his club Vasco da Gama.
"It has made me very satisfied and emotional, to know that people have so much affection, respect and confidence in me.
"This is more important to me than scoring a goal, more important than winning a game, perhaps more important than winning the World Cup.
"This is something I will remember for ever and I thank the Brazilian people for everything."
A variety of polls and surveys have demonstrated overwhelming support for Romario and Brazil have been greeted by chants of "Romario, Romario" during their last two games and the training sessions beforehand.
Romario, whose five goals at the 1994 World Cup helped Brazil win the title for the fourth and last time, said that he was motivated by memories of how his team had helped Brazilians briefly forget their daily grind of poverty, violence and injustice.
"Everyone has dreams, I am no different and one of them is to play at another World Cup. Playing football is what I love to do and I know that when I'm playing for the Brazil team, I'm playing for a people," said Romario, who wept several times during the interview.
"The Brazilians are a people with many problems and I know that, even in a friendly, a simple victory can bring them some happiness -- it could me for a moment, for a minute or an hour.
"I realised this in 1994 when I saw the faces of a happy, content people who, just for a moment, forgot their suffering.
"I dream of another cup for this reason -- not because I want to get a transfer abroad or something like that. My attitude is of an amateur who wants to play for the joy of playing."
The former PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and Valencia player has had two unhappy World Cup experiences alongside his 1994 triumph.
In 1990, he played in only one game as Brazil suffered a second-round elimination at the hands of Argentina.
He was axed in tears on the eve of France '98 because of a niggling calf muscle injury but Romario never accepted the decision and insisted he could have played.
Romario said he did not agree with media speculation that he may have been the victim of a battle of egos in the Brazil camp or even a soft drinks sponsorship war.
Last week, the sports daily Lance said that Brazil players had asked for Romario to be kept out of the squad because of resentment at his alleged demands for special treatment.
There have also been suggestions that his advertising deal with Coca-Cola, whose arch-rivals Ambev sponsor the Brazil team, could be a factor.
"I don't believe this because I have been with this group and they know me, they know what I'm like. I have had a problem with Roberto Carlos in the past but that was resolved in the dressing room after a game in Mexico."
He added: "I am perfectly at ease about the commercials I have done, this will not get in my way."
Romario also denied he had been guilty of indiscipline and said he accepted Scolari's explanations that he had been left out for technical reasons.
"That is Felipao's opinion and I respect it without any bad feelings or sadness. I don't agree but I respect it," he said.
Romario denied his interview was an appeal to Scolari. "I'm just here to thank the Brazilians," he said.
Vasco da Gama president Eurico Miranda, who sat alongside Romario smoking a cigar during the interview, was less diplomatic.
"Felipe (Scolari) is an ordinary coach but Romario is not an ordinary player, he is an exceptional player. If Felipao does not recognise this, his judgement is wrong," Miranda said.