By Jack Beresford
Ex-teammates Romario and Edmundo have harboured an infamously volatile relationship over the years, with the Brazilian pair rarely seeing eye to eye as players – but that wasn’t always the case.
Long before Romario ignited a long-running feud between the pair by hanging an unflattering caricature of Edmundo on the door to the gents’ toilets of his Rio de Janeiro bar back in 1998, they were actually friends.
First with Vasco da Gama in 1992, the duo struck up quite the on-field partnership, with Romario serving as the club’s wise old head, alongside the more turbulent, unpredictable rising star that was Edmundo.
Edmundo would later describe his sparring partner as “like a big brother” while Romario duly returned the favour by naming Edmundo his “only friend” in football.
Having once again teamed up at Flamengo in 1995, after Romario engineered a move for Edmundo with the promise of forging “the attack of dreams”, the two strikers decided to put their friendship to the ultimate test by releasing of their very own hip-hop record.
The result was ‘Rap dos Bad Boys’ – a heartfelt, powerful rap that urged “peace for the nation” and to “stop the violence and don’t cause trouble” (just months after the two players were involved in a mass brawl during a Supercopa Libertadores clash with Velez Sarsfield).
Like Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson all over again, the pair cast themselves in the roles of teacher and student, careful to ensure they both had an opportunity to blow their own trumpets.
Romario, in particular, was eager to underline his authority, singing “I won the world, I’m a champion” at one point while Edmundo earnestly labels himself the “champion of truth”.
Romario’s adventures in European football are condensed into two lines: “I left Brazil and went to play in Holland, I was king in PSV and Barca in Spain”.
Edmundo, meanwhile, repeatedly labels himself “a bad boy” before adding, possibly while maintaining eye-contact with his elder, that he can “learn” from Romario and that he’s “the ideal teacher.”
The song ended up being a moderate hit in their native Brazil but, a mere three years later, the mutual respect between the two men well and truly evaporated.
The beginning of the cold war came when Edmundo was called up for the 1998 World Cup while Romario was left at home by Mario Zagallo,
Broaching the subject during a retrospective chat with Desimpedidos, Edmundo said:
We never fought face-to-face. We fought through the press. A time came that we were disputing a place in the seleção, disputing championship titles, fighting for top-scorer awards, and even women in the nightclub.
We arrived at the club and there was me in one corner and him in the other; I was prettier, I had the chat. So, we started to clash.
Though the pair would go on to enjoy on-field success once more during a second spell together at Vasco towards the turn of the millennium, their rift was never healed, with Edmundo angered by the returning Romario for stealing some of his limelight.
Edmundo’s career suffered as a result, with the irked forward going from main man to also-ran in the space of a short few years.
Now working as a pundit, he remains very much in Romario’s shadow, with the latter working as Federal Senator in Rio, after enjoying a record election win.
As well as healing Brazil’s deep social schisms forevermore, ‘Rap dos Bad Boys’ also remains a fascinating look at the calm before the storm.