Romárioooooo! We can still hear Evert ten Napel say it! It is almost thirty years since Romário showed his art in the Netherlands as a striker of PSV. But the Brazilian vedette, now 53 years old, is still extremely popular in Eindhoven. At the initiative of main sponsor Energiedirect.nl he celebrated carnival in the city of light. Very football-loving Netherlands followed his short-lived stay in the Netherlands closely. Sponsor manager Jeroen Galiart – he was once made a fan of PSV by Romário – looks back at the impact romário still has: "This has surpassed our wildest dreams."
When did the idea come about to bring Romário to the Netherlands?
"For years we have been walking around with the idea of bringing Romário to the Netherlands as main sponsor with carnival. After all, what connects PSV to carnival better than a Brazilian? And Romario is obviously a hero here, he's played here for five years. Well, and this is also our last year as main sponsor, we wanted to organize one more big campaign, one that the fans had to remember for a long time. So we did everything we could to bring Romario to Eindhoven, and we succeeded."
How did you fix that? Because making agreements with Romário is not easy to say the least. A lot of people can talk about that.
"After the first contacts were made, we wrote out the idea, wrote the idea, did a lot of it and emailed it. Financially it wasn't all that easy, but otherwise it actually ran very smoothly. I also felt like he really liked it himself. He had canceled a lot in the last two years because of his role in politics, but now he had a little more room in his agenda. Everything fell into place."
I imagine it was exciting until the last minute whether Romário would be on the plane…
"That's right! Luckily, a friend of Romário had taken a picture of him being on the plane, so that was quite a relief for us. Actually, it was a succession of exciting moments. Is he signing the contract? Is he on the plane? Is he in time where he needs to be? But he kept all the arrangements on time. We did have some emergency scenarios in the house, for example if he was going to be late or not showing up, but fortunately we didn't need any of that. And whatever struck me, he seemed much leaner and more trained than in his PSV days as a player! He still does a lot of foot volley on the Brazilian beaches."
How did Romario like it in the Netherlands?
"He really liked it. On Thursday he landed in the Netherlands. On Friday he met sponsors and fans. He has also spoken to some former players, such as Gerald Vanenburg and Twan Scheepers. Think he wanted to thank the latter for the times he had to pick up Romário for training when he had slept through again, haha.
On Saturday he participated in the carnival parade. That was very special. A lot of fans came especially for him. Everyone wanted him in the picture or an autograph. Joh, the impact of his visit has surpassed our wildest dreams. It wasn't normal. We never expected that much attention. We are overwhelmed with media requests and very often we had to sell 'no'. I think he was surprised by it himself."
How do you think that's going to happen?
"Romário is and remains a great phenomenon, even though it has been almost thirty years since he came here to play football. Many people have also grown up with Romário as psv striker. He has brought many successes here and has also played football here for five years. This still does a lot in Eindhoven and its surroundings."
Now this visit by Romario also had a personal touch for you…
"Romário was once the reason for me to become a PSV fan. He and van Breukelen were my heroes at the time. Why? His moves, his mannerisms, always scoring. The game against Steaua Bucharest was fantastic, but also his four goals against Feyenoord in 1991. I was in football for the first time in terms of age. Remember that one time I was very angry with trainer Hans Westerhof that he changed Romário at a European race. I didn't get it. Personally, it was a very nice bonus for me to be able to shake his hand and talk to him now. Of course, I also told him he was my childhood hero. And that I wasn't so happy with him for one moment, during the World Cup '94 when Romário eliminated the Dutch team with Brazil. At that moment, you're going to be a little boy again. He had to smile about that. It was nice to be able to meet him. He's still a very big gentleman."
This action does require a follow-up action of course, can we expect Ronaldo in Eindhoven next year?
"Ha, no, unfortunately. This was really a one-off. This was a wonderful highlight, which I would also like to mention my colleague Lisa Durkstra. She has done an incredible amount to make this campaign a success. But it's just this one time. If we did this again, it could only be disappointing."