Domingos da Guia
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Born: Tuesday 19 November 1912, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Died: Thursday 18 May 2000, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (aged 87)
Although more renowned for skilful attacking attacking players, Brazil has produced a number of excellent defenders and perhaps the finest of all was Domingos Antônio da Guia. Battling the racial prejudices which were prevalent in Brazilian society at the time, he was one of the first black players to achieve nationwide fame in a long and successful club career which took in not just several Brazilian clubs but also spells in Uruguay and Argentina.
Domingos was born in the Bangu district of Rio de Janeiro on 19 November 1912, into a farming family who were the descendants of freed slaves. A natural ability for football clearly ran in the family, as his thre brothers Ladislau, Luiz and Mamede would also go on to play professionally. His career began with his local team, Bangu AC, making his debut in a match against Flamengo in 1929. He was never the quickest of players, but defended with a great sense of calm which filled his team-mates with confidence. He was also one of the first defenders to dribble the ball away from danger rather than just making big clearances.
In the early days of his career, when football in Brazil was still amateur, Domingos made a living working for the Public Health department. Developing into an elegant and highly intelligent full-back with a superb positional sense, Domingos was selected for the national team for the first time in the Rio Branco Cup match against Uruguay in September 1931, a match which Brazil won 2-0. When he did left his hometown club in 1932, it was to move to Uruguay when he went to play for Nacional. In one season in Montevideo, Domingos helped the club to win the Uruguayan title when they edged out fierce rivals Peñarol after a championship play-off. It was while playing for Nacional that Domingos gained his nickname, 'the divine master'.
For the 1934 season Domingos returned to Brazil to play for Vasco da Gama and formed a part of the team which won that season's Rio State championship. He was only on the fringes of the national team at that point however and missed out on a place in the squad for that year's World Cup in Italy. At this point in his career he was moving from club to club with some regularity, and for the 1935 season moved to Argentina and to Boca Juniors. Boca claimed the Argentinian title in 1935, giving Domingos the extremely rare achievement of league titles in three different countries in successive years.
He stayed with Boca until 1936 and although he was only at the club for two seasons is fondly remembered as having been a part of one of their strongest ever teams. Returning again to Brazil, Domingos signed for Flamengo and finally settled with one club. He would stay until 1943 and enjoy the most successful period of his career, as well as becoming more established as a regular in the Brazilian national team. When the World Cup of 1938 came round he was a first choice starter for the tournament in France.
Domingos' first experience of the World Cup was a difficult match for all defenders, as his team edged past Poland after extra-time in an 11 goal thriller, finally winning 6-5. The quarter-final was even closer although much lower scoring, as Brazil finally beat Czechoslovakia after a replay to reach their first semi-final. They would ultimately lose that match to Italy after Domingos conceded a penalty for what proved to be the winning goal, but rebounded to win the third place play-off and he was named as one of the three defenders in the competition's all-star team. Domingos always maintained that the referee favoured Italy throughout the match, in part due to the presence of their dicatator Benito Mussolini in the stadium.
The 1939 season brought another domestic title when Flamengo became Rio State champions, a competition which he would win twice more in 1942 and 1943. With Domingos controlling their defence, they had comfortably the best defensive record in the league in each of those two later seasons, conceding little over half as many goals as any other club in 1943. Domingos' seven years with Flamengo brought 223 appearances of which the club would lose just 39. He played in the South American Championship for the first time in 1942, but narrow defeats against Argentina and Uruguay cost Brazil any chance of winning the title.
Domingos would make two more appearances in major tournaments, in the South American Championships of 1945 and 1946. Runners-up to Argentina in 1945, the following year they had a chance to win the title if they beat the Argentinians in the final match but lost 2-0. That match proved to be the last of Domingos' international career, meaning he retired without ever having won a title at international level.
By now approaching his mid-30s, Domingos had moved to Corinthians in 1943 and spent four years with the São Paulo club. In four years with Corinthians he was unable to add to his list of major honours, but still won many fans during his time there and is considered to be one of the finest defenders to have played for the club. In 1948 Domingos made the final move of his career when he returned 'home' to play one more season with Bangu, where his career had started almost 20 years earlier. He finally retired at the end of the 1948 season, at the age of 36.
After the end of his playing days, Domingos briefly went into coaching with lower league club Olaria, but eventually left football to return to public sector employment, working for the tax department. For many years his son, Ademir da Guia, was one of the finest players in the Brazilian league, carrying on the great family tradition in the game. Domingos da Guia died in Rio on 12 May 2000, after suffering a stroke. He is still so fondly remembered at Bangu that he is immortalised in the lyrics of the club song.
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- Published on Monday, 13 February 2012 21:27