Bebeto, centre, creates a moment of history with his celebration at USA 94.
Bebeto, centre, creates a moment of history with his celebration at USA 94. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: The 1994 World Cup witnessed a memorable magic moment between Bebeto and Romario as Brazil powered to a record fourth crown on the global stage.

And even though the Brazilian duo lit up the world stage with their clinical finishes — eight goals between them — it was Bebeto who became a household name for his unique goal celebration.

After scoring in the quarter-finals against the Netherlands, Bebeto ran to the sideline, brought his arms together and began rocking an imaginary baby, and the image has hung on after so many years.

Late on Friday, Bebeto joined that child — his eldest son Mattheus — to speak about those unique goal celebrations and relive a truly golden era of samba magic that culminated in a 3-2 penalty shoot-out win for Brazil in the final against Italy before more than 94,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on July 17.

“It was spontaneous. Nothing had been planned. But I was pleasantly surprised to see some of my teammates joining me in celebrating that goal. At first no one outside the team knew about our son being born. But later, I explained to the world,” Bebeto recounted as his son Mattheus looked on in amazement during a webinar moderated by Max Zelkcovik, international sales manager at InStat.

“Today after so many years, all we have is a nice taste in our mouth that we were able to create some magic and also a bit of history that we can look back with a lot of nostalgia. It is also nice to have Mattheus with us as he was the reason for the celebration,” the 56-year-old Bebeto added.

The Brazilian, who went on to be elected to the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro representing the Democratic Labour Party, in 2010, hailed the quality and consistency of the 1994 squad.

“We had a certain uniformity with all players at one level. But then, when it mattered most someone in the team rose and took that extra step. Today, there is so much of technology involved. Players are ultra-professional and they can get help from practically any quarter. But we had the heart and the will to succeed,” Bebeto said. “We got the fundamentals and the love for the game right, and the rest simply followed.”

Mattheus — who, like his dad, started his career with the youth side of Brazilian club Flamengo — plays as an attacking midfielder with Cristiano Ronaldo’s former club Sporting in Lisbon.

“I am blessed to be playing in the same club as my hero and idol. Playing on the grounds and using the same facilities that Ronaldo has used gives me the motivation to get better,” the 25-year-old Mattheus said. “Today, technology has an important role to play in football and every tactic and technique is easily mastered. For the moment, this is the closest I can get to him and his greatness while playing at the same club. I want to use this as an inspiration to set my own legacy in football.”

The story of the goal celebration goes back to July 7, when Bebeto’s wife Denise delivered their first child. Two days later, Brazil faced the Netherlands in their quarter-final at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Romario opened the scoring for Brazil in the 53rd minute, and 10 minutes later Bebeto got a second and then ran to the sideline to come up with that unique celebration as teammates Romario and Mazinho quickly joined in. Today, that fourth World Cup crown is as much a memory as that unique goal celebration.

With 39 goals in 75 appearances for Brazil, Bebeto is the sixth highest goalscorer for his national team. He was also the top scorer for Brazil at the 1989 Copa America when they won the tournament.

Bebeto and Romario became firm friends during the World Cup in 1994.
Bebeto and Romario became firm friends during the World Cup in 1994. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Born in Salvador, Bebeto started his career in 1983 with Vitoria, after which he went on to represent some top clubs including Flamengo, Vasco da Gama and Botafogo in Brazil, Deportivo La Coruna and Sevilla in Spain, Toros Neza in Mexico before entering Asia for Japan’s Kashima Antlers and finally finishing with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad in 2002.

Bebeto and Romario had severe personal differences off the pitch. Both were fierce rivals in the Spanish League. Bebeto led the Spanish first division with 29 goals in 1992-93 and Romario pumped in 30 goals during the 1993-94 season.

In fact, it was Romario who gave Bebeto the nickname ‘Chorao’ (Crybaby), for his habit of pouting to referees. It was also Romario who called a news conference before the 1994 World Cup to announce that he would not sit next to Bebeto on the team’s flight to the US.

But the magic of the beautiful game and those unique goal celebrations changed all that and today both remain good friends. In fact, in an interview a couple of years back, Bebeto praised his partnership with Romario.

“I played with Romario only in the national team. We played only one game together [at Flamengo] before he left for Europe. Do you know that Brazil have never lost a game when Bebeto and Romario played together? Not a single game. Besides, every time we played together at least one of us scored.”

True gems of the modern game.