By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Former Seleção striker and current government deputy, Carioca legend Romário de Souza Faria (known simply as Romário) brought festive cheer to the city last Friday, December 23rd. The 45-year-old secured a donation from the CBF (Brazilian Football Federation) of 32,000 tickets for the 2014 World Cup for Brazilian citizens living with a disability.
With 64 games making up the tournament, the CBF are footing the bill for 500 people to watch top international football free of charge during each match. Needing to buy the tickets directly from FIFA, it is estimated that each entrance fee would be worth R$741 (roughly US$400), meaning Ricardo Teixeira, president of the CBF, is paying out from the Federation a total of R$23.7 million (US$12.8 million).
Adopting a more serious air than he is famed for and dressed in a dark suit and tie, Romário (PSB-RJ) emotionally made the announcement in Rio de Janeiro alongside close friend and former strike partner Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima (the Fenômeno) in an admirable attempt to help those often forgotten within a community.
Wiping away tears, the former Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco forward explained that the exact criteria for the distribution of the tickets will be decided later in meetings held by the Câmara dos Deputados.
Commenting on the subject afterwards, Romário said: “I was surprised with the speed of the response. The CBF are going to donate all the tickets, and they are now destined for those people with a disability and their companions, in cases where a helper is necessary.”
Three time World Player of the Year winner Ronaldo, who is now serving as an adviser to the Local Organizing Committee (COL), said: “Romário has been my friend and teammate for a long time and I am happy to see his handling of this cause for those with disabilities, and his dedication as a deputy. My aim is to ensure that the World Cup is for the people. That is the way it has to be.”
Meanwhile, FIFA has decided to leave the issue of referees at the world Cup open until the very last minute. In an attempt to avoid any catastrophic errors in 2014, as there were at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that the list for selected referees would remain open until the weeks prior to the tournament, with the intention of choosing the best whistlers to take charge of matches at the Cup.
Swiss Massimo Busacca, head of world football’s refereeing department, is heading the project, and was present at the World Club tournament held in Japan earlier this month to take stock. “We will choose referees we can observe and analyse up until 2014,” he said.
“Next year  will be fundamental. We are going to make a list of elite referees, but it will stay open until the end. A referee can make the list but be struck off later if he is deemed inadequate of if he does not work in the appropriate way,” Busacca concluded.