Rumor of the Day: Romario Really Likes Bebeto


Brazilians have come to Nutwood. Hundreds of them. It is the name of the street in Fullerton where the fun-loving soccer players of Brazil are being lodged, directly across the street from Texas Loosey’s chili parlor, where the women employees wear cowboy hats and bathing suits.

Just past lunchtime, as the salt-and-pepper sidekicks Bebeto and Romario stroll together through the lobby of the hotel, there is such a crush of Brazilian fanhood that the superstars must weave their way to a small salon as they would through Sweden’s defense. Because of the mob, the hotel restaurant already has cut off service to anyone not registered as a guest, sending the hungry scurrying across the highway for chilly women con carne.



Sao duas horas (it’s 2 o’clock) on a windy Terca-feira (Tuesday) afternoon here in Fullerton, where the hills are alive with the sound of Portuguese. The whole town is turning into Brazilville. The nearby university has become Cal State Rio. And nobody much minds anymore that Brazil is the team that eliminated Team USA. Forgive, forget. After all, Brazil could be the team that eliminates everybody.


Bebeto. Romario. They are the go-to guys. They are the lucky strikers, the men who get to score the goals, the most potent 1-2 punch in World Cup soccer, men who hear their names called with passion wherever they go--even Fullerton. And a common goal that consumes them is to end the “24 years of suffering,” as Romario calls it, since parched Brazilians have drunk from the Cup.

Romario: “We have heard it said that the yellow jersey was a pretty jersey, but it did not have a heart beating inside of it. We hope following this World Cup, it will still be a pretty jersey, but it has 11 hearts beating beneath it.”

Bebeto: “Yes. Eleven hearts.”

They think alike, these two. But are they alike?

Bebeto laughs.

Romario: “We are different people. Bebeto is the type that stays at home. I am a street cat.”

Behind closed doors they relax, away from the hubbub outside. Romario, 28, two years younger and four inches shorter, wears a heavy cinco horas shadow of whiskers and a “Just Do It” baseball cap. Once a poor boy from Jacarezinho whose family had little to eat, he is now Super Romario, indebted to his parents for “everything I am today,” a rich and famous football giant of 5 feet 6.

What else is Romario?

“I’m the face of Rio. I’m a cheerful person, the sort of person who likes the samba and the Carnaval. I love life. I want to enjoy it. I love the sun and the beach. That’s what the Carioca (Rio de Janeiro resident) is like, he knows how to enjoy life and be happy. I’m happy. After all, I’m a Carioca.”

Yet he and Bebeto, the samba kings, share more than games and fame.

They are men who know pain as well as pleasure, men whose common bond includes family crises. Both have seen their happy home lives invaded by kidnapers. One man a month ago put a submachine gun to the head of Bebeto’s 25-year-old pregnant wife. The crooks settled for a Rolex and her car. A month before that, it was Romario’s father who was kidnaped while leaving a bar. Six days later he was found, unharmed.


Family ties.

Bebeto: “On the seventh of July, my wife gave birth to our baby, Mattheus, so named for (Germany’s) Lothar Matthaeus, a great player. When I scored the goal (against the United States), I pretended to rock the baby as an homage to our new son.”

Romario: “I hope his wife comes up with another baby next week.”

They are, indeed, friends. It still amuses or annoys Bebeto and Romario when others try to drive a wedge between them. Some remember when Romario reportedly used the word chorao (crybaby) with regard to his teammate, but what Romario meant was that Bebeto has been known to complain to officials about calls, that’s all.

Romario: “A lot of the news that arrived to us about that (not being friends) was simply out-and-out lies. I respect Bebeto a lot. He knows how much I like him.”

Bebeto: “Romario says it all.”

It takes two to tangle. The relationship on the field between Romario de Souza Faria and Jose Roberto (Bebeto) Gama de Oliveira is a dance in which each knows the other’s steps.

“Of course we make a great pair,” admits Bebeto, but he agrees that to truly be the best, first Brazil must win twice more.

Romario: “The only thing we have in common on the field is that we both score goals. Bebeto is more of a free-flowing, moving, all-around player than I am. He practically plays for all 90 minutes, concentrating on what is happening all the time. And I, my strength? My strength is sometimes people think I’m just sleeping.”


Bebeto: “What can I say about Romario? He finishes like nobody. He has great ability, great velocity in short spaces. He’s a born finisher. A lot of people think he is just hanging around doing nothing and suddenly, bang, it’s a goal.”


Bebeto: “And, he’s really my friend.”