By Andrew Downie
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Bebeto, the fleet-footed former striker who helped Brazil win the 1994 World Cup, was appointed on Thursday to the local committee in charge of organising the 2014 tournament in the South American country.
The appointment makes Bebeto the second big name in Brazilian soccer to join the so-called Local Organizing Committee, alongside former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid striker Ronaldo, who led Brazil to their fifth World Cup title in 2002.
"It was a pleasure, on my birthday, to get this invitation," Bebeto told reporters on his 48th birthday in Rio de Janeiro. "It was like getting my first call up for the World Cup, for the Brazil team.
"I never had the joy of playing in a World Cup in my own country but now I will, as a fan, as a representative ... so we have to do everything possible in order to have a great World Cup, one of the greatest World Cups in history."
Bebeto, now a state legislator in Rio, joins the organising committee as Brazil is struggling to get ready to host the world's premier soccer tournament.
Work on stadiums got off to a slow start, many projects are over budget, and airport infrastructure remains woefully insufficient to accommodate the 600,000 visitors expected for the soccer extravaganza.
While Bebeto celebrated his appointment, Ricardo Teixeira, head of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and the local World Cup organising committee, continued to face an onslaught of corruption allegations. Teixeira, who has headed the CBF for 22 years, has denied any wrongdoing.
Bebeto, who formed a deadly duo with Romario when Brazil won the 1994 World Cup in the United States, is perhaps best remembered for his "rocking the baby" goal celebration against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.
However, his new position might put him at odds with his old striking partner. Romario, who is now a federal congressman, has been one of the most outspoken critics of Teixeira and his handling of preparations for the tournament.
Pressure has mounted on Teixeira in recent days after Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported that a company linked to him overcharged the organisers of a November 2008 friendly match between Brazil and Portugal. Another Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, said the latest accusations could force Teixeira to resign soon.
Bebeto said the 64-year-old soccer boss seemed "happy and content" on Thursday as he chatted about past World Cups with him and Ronaldo.
Asked whether Teixeira might finally step aside, Bebeto said: "I hope he continues, and continues to work (because) that is without doubt very important for Brazil."
Ronaldo, who ended his playing career last year, also defended Teixeira.
"He's the guy who brought the World Cup to Brazil and we owe a lot to him," the three-times FIFA World Player of the Year told reporters in Rio.
(Additional reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Reuters TV in Rio de Janeiro; Editing by Todd Benson)