This tribute is well over due. Socrates the great Brazilian footballer died on 4th December 2011 aged 57. Socrates was an incredible man and fitted an awful lot into those 57 years. Apart from his 15 year professional playing career and 60 caps for Brazil, including captaining his country in the 1982 World Cup, he was a qualified medical doctor, father of 6 children and a political force in his troubled country.
The 1982 Brazil side was probably one of the best international teams that never won a World Cup. Alongside Socrates were great names like Zico, Falcão and Éder. They were true exponents of attacking, ‘samba’ football. They cruised through the early games of Mondial ’82 (the Spanish name for the 1982 World Cup), beating the Soviet Union, Scotland, New Zealand and Maradona’s Argentina scoring 13 goals in those 4 games and then they came up against Italy, the eventual champions.
The match between Italy and Brazil is considered by many one of the all time best World Cup games. At 68 minutes the game was tied at 2-2 with Brazil twice having come back from a goal down. Because of the unique format of the ’82 competition Brazil needed only a draw to qualify for the semi-final. But Brazil continued to play their attacking football and Paolo Rossi completed his hat trick in the 74th minute to send Italy through.
Socrates was named South American Footballer of the Year in 1983, and was named on Pelé’s FIFA 100 list in 2004. He also appeared in the 1986 World Cup finals. His signature move was the blind heel pass and he was considered to be one of the greatest midfielders ever to play the game. He was a magnificent technical playmaker with great vision and strength and could play off of both feet. He had a very distinctive look, at 6’ 4” with his beard and headband he was always easily spotted on the field.
Off of the field he was a champion for democracy at a time when Brazil was ruled by a military government. He qualified as a doctor while playing professional football, a rare feat, which must be unique for the level he played. After retiring from football he practiced medicine in Ribeirão Preto in the north east of Sao Paolo.
Socrates was known to be a heavy drinker and smoker and suffered ill health in recent years. He had been in hospital since August, originally admitted for gastrointestinal bleeding, following further complications he died on the 4th December 2011. He will be sadly missed around the world by all of those who saw him play.
By Max Power