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Born: Saturday 28 October 1933, Pau Grande, Brazil
Died: Thursday 20 January 1983, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (aged 49)
Considered by many to be the finest dribbler in the history of football, Brazilian star Garrincha played a pivotal role in his country's triumphs in the 1958 and 1962 World Cups. A flying right-winger who was able to score or create goals almost at will, he overcame a number of physical problems to become one of the most popular players Brazil has ever produced, although his often controversial off-field lifestyle contributed to his early death.
Garrincha, real name Manuel Francisco dos Santos, was born in Pau Grande in Rio de Janeiro state on 28 October 1933. He earned his nickname, meaning 'little bird' as a result of his relatively small stature, growing to little over 5'6" (167cm). He was born with atwisted spine and several problems with his legs, one being several centimetres shorter than the other and both being crooked, but still displayed a considerable talent for football from an early age.
Beginning his career at youth level with Pau Grande, Garrincha initially seemed to have no interest in becoming a professional despite interest from a number of Brazil's leading clubs. His private life was beset with problems from an early age, having left school barely literate at 14 and started drinking heavily around the same time. At the age of 19, he finally agreed to sign his first professional contract and joined Botafogo, where he went on to spend most of his playing career.
His impact was immediate, dazzling experienced defenders with his skills in training and scoring a hat-trick on his first team debut in the summer of 1953. His greatest gift was undoubtedly his mesmerising dribbling skills, sometimes even going back to players he had already beaten to take them on again. Garrincha was also a superb crosser of the ball and capable of scoring spectacular goals from long range. Despite his height, he was also surprisingly strong in the air.
In his first season with Botafogo, Garrincha scored 20 goals in the Rio state championship, including a hat-trick against Bonsuccesso in the second game of the season. By 1955 he had been called up to the national team, making his debut in a 1-1 draw with Chile, but for a couple of years remained on the fringes of the squad. During that time he did win a first major honour at club level, scoring in the 6-2 final game win over Fluminense which clinched the Rio state title in 1957.
Despite a run in the national team in 1957, Garrincha's international career continued to stutter. Brazil had begun to use IQ testing and psychological profiling as part of their selection process. The poorly educated Garrincha, with his often waywayd lifestyle and casual attitude, did not fit with what they were looking for but such was his standing with the other players, Brazil took a chance on him and included him in the saquad for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.
Garrincha, along with the 17-year old Pelé, was left out of Brazil's first two games as they beat Austria and drew with England, but both were unleashed on the tournament against the Soviet Union in the last group match. The Soviet defenders could not cope with the flying winger, being beaten time and time again. Brazil won the match 2-0 to qualify for the knockout stages, where they beat Wales and France to reach the final against hosts Sweden.
In the final, Brazil fell behind early but Garrincha turned the match in their favour. With two trademark runs down the right wing, he created two nearly identical goals for Vavá to give his team a 2-1 lead at half-time. They never looked back, going on to win 5-2 and claim the World Cup for the first time. Less than a year later they almost added the South American Championship to their world title, but failure to beat hosts Argentina in their final game left Brazil as runners-up.
Many leading European sides attempted to sign him, but moving into the 1960s Garrincha's private life began to cause increasing problems. He was drinking more heavily and gaining weight and when driving under the influence of alcohol, ran over his own father. He also fathered a number of children as a result of extra-marital affairs. Despite those problems, he helped Botafogo to win another Rio state title in 1961 and the Rio-São Paulo tournament early the following year, going into the 1962 World Cup in Chile in fine form.
That World Cup proved to be the pinnacle of Garrincha's career, as when Pelé suffered an injury early in the tournament he took centre stage in the Brazilian side. He set up the winning goal against Spain to clinch a quarter-final place, where he dominated the match against England. Garrincha opened the scoring with a header and with Brazil leading 2-1 in the second half, added another with a superb strike from 25 years before missing out on a hat-trick when his penalty was saved.
He scored twice more in the semi-final against Chile, establishing a 2-0 first half lead in a match Brazil went on to win 4-2, but was sent off late in the match and could have missed the final. Suspensions were not automatic however and he was allowed to play against Czechoslovakia, where Brazil came from behind to win 3-1. He was named player of the tournament, as well as finished in a six-way tie for the Golden Boot with four goals.
Although he won another Rio state title with Botafogo in 1962, his career began to decline as he entered his 30s. Years of drinking began to take their toll and he drifted away from the national team, while the previously adoring Brazilian public began to turn against him when he left his wife and children to marry another woman. In 1965 he left Botafogo after 12 years, joining Corinthians.
Garrincha returned to the national team in 1965, three years on from his last appearance in the World Cup final. He remained in the squad until the 1966 World Cup in England, scoring from a free-kick in the opening game win over Bulgaria. In their next game Brazil suffered a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Hungary, which remarkably was his first international defeat in his 50th cap. It was also his last international, as he missed the defeat against Portugal which knocked Brazil out of the finals.
Through the late 1960s, Garrincha's career entered terminal decline. He moved around various clubs, playing for Portuguesa, Colombian side Atlético Junior and Flamengo. He was also involved in another drink-driving tragedy, crashing into a truck and causing the death of his mother-in-law, who was a passanger in the car. His final club as a professional was Olaria, where he retired after the 1972 season at the age of 39.
In retirement, his alcohol problem grew even worse. His wife left him after he struck her in a drunken rage, while in 1980 he appeared clearly drunk at a Rio carnival, completely unaware of what was going on around him. Amid mounting family and financial problems, he died three years later from cirrhosis of the liver, aged just 49. One of the game's flawed geniuses, Garrincha's ability on the pitch ensured that he remains one of Brazil's most popular players.
References (all accessed 17 October 2012):
- Published on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 14:11