Welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter! As we are slap-bang in the middle of Carnival weekend, we thought we’d take things a little easier this week with some classic stories of footballers and their love for Brazil’s famous annual festivities. Normal activities will resume next week.
Bom Carnaval a todos!
Edmundo’s Carnival clause
“The Beast,” Edmundo made his name in Brazil as one of the most lethal goalscorers in the 1990s, winning leagues for Palmeiras and Vasco, and being a regular part of the Brazilian national team. Though he was a tremendously talented penalty box striker, Edmundo never lasted long in Europe, despite an exciting start in a thrilling Fiorentina side. One of the reasons for this was, amazingly, Edmundo’s love for Carnival.
In early 1999, Fiorentina made a case to be contenders for the Italian title. Edmundo formed a formidable strike partnership with Argentinian idol Gabriel Batistuta, and both were supplied by Portuguese midfield wizard Rui Costa. The trio had scored 39 goals between them in the first half of the season and looked good to keep their form going.
However, in February, Edmundo requested leave to go back to Rio de Janeiro and enjoy Carnival with his friends, missing three important league games. Fiorentina reportedly agreed to his vacation, however, after losing all three matches in his absence, Edmundo was given the full blame. The relationship between player and club worsened rapidly and Edmundo ditched Europe to return to Vasco in Rio.
Two years later, he was given another shot at Italy, this time at Napoli. However, setting his stall out from the start, he demanded a clause be written into his contract that would allow him to take holidays during Brazil’s Carnival. He lasted six months before going back home.
A contemporary of Edmundo, Romário had been called the greatest Brazilian player of all time by his Barcelona team-mates in the mid-1990s. He scored hundreds of goals, winning a World Cup in the process along with a whole host of other trophies. But one career decision of Romário’s shocked football fans around the world and may well have stunted his chances at making it into the very top table of the greatest footballers in history.
After becoming a hero at Barcelona and propelling Brazil to the World Cup title in 1994, a 28-year-old Romário left Spain just months later to return to his hometown club Flamengo, claiming he was homesick for the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. So then it was that the greatest striker in the world was banging in goals against non-league opposition in the Rio state championship, playing football on the beach, and partying at Carnival.
Though a shock at the time, there were some indications during Romário’s time in Barcelona that the diminutive striker longed to be home in Rio de Janeiro. His coach, the late and legendary Johan Cruijff, told a story of a curious deal Romário had made with him one year in Barcelona.
“One day, he came to me to ask for two days off from training to go back to Brazil, during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. I told him, ‘if you score two goals tomorrow, I’ll give you two extra days of rest.'”
“The next day, he scored his second goal in the 20th minute of the game and immediately turned to me making a gesture that he wanted to be substituted.”
“He told me, ‘Coach, my flight leaves in less than an hour.'”