A look back at Brazilian legend Bebeto's career, as he turns 50
He is one of the greatest strikers of Brazilian football of all time and was one of the best players in the world in the 1990′s. José Roberto Gama de Oliveira, nicknamed ‘ Bebeto ‘, turned 50 this week . He played a crucial role in Brazil’s world cup triumph in the 1994 World Cup.
Analyzing his career, there is a very distinct feeling that he got less recognition than he deserves. The Brazilian people usually prefer to exalt talented but troubled players who did’t attain the apex that we all expected – for instance the cases of Edmundo and Adriano.
Believe me, Bebeto was a phenomenal and frighteningly regular and productive player. With the Brazilian national team, he won all the trophies that they could – the Copa America in 1989, Confederations Cup in 1997 and the Fifa World Cup in 1994 and in all these triumphs, he played a pivotal role and was very important to the team.
For someone who had a slight physique (an unusual feature in top football), and was baby faced , he was able to play a very modern brand of football; vertical, with quick touches, combining a quick collective game with efficiency in the attack zone. He was a goal scorer and was a very good team player, indicated by the assists he gave throughout his entire career. One of his ‘trademarks’ was the ease with which he scored goals, as shown by the countless volleys he scored, all of which indicated his graceful (and sometimes) acrobatic instincts on the field.
His attacking partnership with Romario in World Cup 1994 was one of the most incredible that the world football saw in that decade. “In training sessions the two ( Bebeto and Romario ) were perfect scoring goals after crosses and assists from the teammates, so we knew that both could solve any game of that World Cup” said the defender Ricardo Rocha, who was part of the squad of the 1994 world champions. The most famous goal of Bebeto’s career was at that tournament, in the quarterfinals against the Netherlands (Brazil won, 3 – 2), when he celebrated his goal by honoring the birth of his son Mattheus (today his son plays for Flamengo as a midfielder), making a gesture as if cradling a baby.
A career full of successes in South Américan football
Born in Salvador, Bahia state, Bebeto stood out as a skinny child and moved to Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro to further his footballing ambitions. There he joined his first professional team at the age of 18, Flamengo and stood playing alongside his childhood idol, the superstar Zico. Bebeto won the Brazilian championship with Flamengo in 1987 scoring the goal that secured the title in the final against Internacional. After that, he transferred to a rival team, Vasco da Gama, where he became an idol, helping the team to win the Brazilian League in 1989 and was the top scorer in the Brazilian League in 1992.
Bebeto was elected the best player of both the Copa America ’89 and the South American continent that year. Primarily, the volley-goal he scored against Argentina (with Maradona playing), which led Brazil to the finals was memorable. Brazil won the title defeating Uruguay in the final match (1 – 0).
Revolutionized Spanish football
The little known club called Deportivo La Coruña was put on the map and became a competitive team in the Spanish sceneafter the arrival of Bebeto in 1992. The top Scorer in La Liga 92/93, the Brazilian striker was a key part of the Galician team, which fought for the title during all four seasons while he was at the club – 1992 to 1996. That situation was something never seen previously in the football of the Galician region.
Bebeto was crucial in changing the level of Deportivo, so much so that they began to be called ‘Super Depor’ -by the local press. The numbers don’t lie; Bebeto scored 118 goals in 131 games, a phenomenal number for a striker who played for a small club in Spain. He is the leading scorer in club history and he is treated as a hero in the city of A Coruña.
Currently, Bebeto is political in Brazil and a member of the local organizing committee for the World Cup 2014.