Brazilian Football legends, No 2: Socrates
There are only a handful of days before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil. With that in mind, we cast our eyes over Socrates, another Brazilian footballing legend.
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When you hear of Socrates, you would be right in thinking he was a Greek philosopher often credited as being one of the founders of Western philosophy. But as everyone knows about cowboys and Indians, we are going to talk about the other Socrates. The one that played for Brazil during the 1980s, a player of such elegance and poise, you would swear he was taking a gentle stroll down the park, such was his demeanour on a football pitch.
He had long hair, a beard, a headband and wouldn't look out of place at Woodstock; in short, he was the epitome of cool. Check out this peach of a goal he scored against the former Soviet Union during the World Cup in Spain of 1982. Oh yeah...
His full name was Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, but that would have cost a fortune to put on a jersey, so he settled on Socrates. In hindsight, wouldn't it have been better to call him Soccertes? I'll get my coat.
He ambled around the middle of the park in his own time dictating the pace of games like a general in battle, strategically moving troops around the battlefield. The Brazilian team of the '80s, which played the World Cups in Spain in 1982 and Mexico in 1986, were not the most successful Brazilian sides, but they were certainly amongst the most entertaining and they defined Samba football. They were a joy to watch and Socrates was at the fulcrum of those sides.
He allegedly smoked 80 cigarettes a day and was in many ways viewed as the ultimate anti-athlete. Not only that, but as a professional footballer he graduated as a doctor of medicine and practised medicine when he retired from football. There aren't many footballers working today who could do that, but nothing ever seemed a drag for Socrates (pun very much intended). Look how casual he was in the pic below. So laid back that he could take a break and still play when the ball came to him.
There were rumours that he studied here in Ireland at UCD when he was studying medicine and the rumours grew legs when it was said he played in the League of Ireland for Shelbourne. There are no facts at all to substantiate this, but it added to the mystique of the man. A lot of grass root footballers in Ireland took him to their hearts when they heard of his smoking prowess. Lads who would use the half-time break to puff on a cigarette revered Socrates and he helped them believe that they too could grace the world stage without having to knock the smoking on the head.
His club career spanned 639 games, and he scored 292 goals which is pretty phenomenal from midfield. In his native Brazil he played for Botafogo, Corinthians, Flamengo and Santos and he also spent a season in Italy playing for Fiorentina. He managed to get 60 caps for his country, scoring 22 goals in the process. He was quite simply an outstanding footballer and a player you could watch all day.....in between the smoke breaks of course.
Brought to you with thanks to Pot Noodle Brazilian BBQ Steak Flavour.