Former Brazilian great Romario has traded a soccer jersey for a banker’s gray suit and become one of the most visible legislators in Brazil. In particular, he has made a name as an outspoken critic of preparations for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil -- taking aim as Brazilian organizers and FIFA -- and supporter of children at risk in the favelas and with special needs.
“O Baixinho” ("the Little Fellow") scored 1,002 career goals and now ranks high for his work in Congress. The watchdog group Congress in Focus rated Romario 2011’s sixth most effective lawmaker out of 513. “On the field, playing ball was automatic," he said. "It came naturally. Politics is, well, different.”
He says the decision to enter politics came after the birth of his sixth child. Ivy, now 7, was born with Down syndrome. He said helping her became his calling. “Angels don’t drop into just anyone’s lap,” he says. “If she fell in mine, maybe He was aiming."
And it inspired him to run for Congress on the Socialist Party ticket. “Brazil has 45 million children with special needs,” he says. “Being an idol wasn’t enough to help.”