RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilians on Monday remembered the 20th anniversary of the death of Garrincha, the right-winger famous for his unique dribbling ability who won two World Cups but died poor and forgotten at the age of 49.
Known as the “Genius with the Twisted Legs”, the bow-legged Garrincha was considered by many Brazilian critics to be one of the country’s greatest players after Pele.
But while the media paid tribute to him on the anniversary of his death, the Brazilian football establishment was accused of again snubbing one of its finest players by failing to organise an event to remember the date.
“Today, just as 20 years ago, the memory of the country’s best right wing has been relegated to official abandon,” complained the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper. “None of the clubs he played for, nor the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), whose shirt he wore 60 times, are planning a tribute.”
“Twenty years without the dribbling of the most inventive and unpredictable player in history,” said Marcos Caetano in the Jornal do Brasil.
“Twenty years which will pass without one miserable tribute from the CBF or Botafogo, the club he loved, fought for and turned into a legend.”
Garrincha tormented and provoked defenders with his irreverent skills, often feigning four or five times before bursting to the touchline and leaving his hapless marker sprawled on the grass in his wake.
Off the field, his career was equally unpredictable.
During the 1962 World Cup in Chile, he was given a radio as a present but complained that it was broken because “it only works in Spanish.”
In 1973, he famously turned up for an audience with President Emilio Garrastazu Medici wearing shorts and flip-flops.
Garrincha, who had 13 children with five different women, died from cirrhosis in the early hours of Jan 20, 1983, after years of heavy drinking had taken its toll.
Born in the tiny village of Pau Grande in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Garrincha made his professional debut with Botafogo at the age of 19 and his first appearance for Brazil in 1955.
He played in the team who won the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and again in Chile four years later, when he took on the leading role after an injury to Pele and scored four goals.
His decline began with a serious knee injury in 1963.
After leaving Botafogo, he played for Flamengo and Corinthians before retiring in 1972 with the unfashionable Rio de Janeiro club Olaria but he admitted that he often played when he was not fully fit.
“My biggest mistake was to play when I was injured,” he said in one of his last interviews before his death. – Reuters