Jair da Rosa Pinto
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Born: Monday 21 March 1921, Quatis, Brazil
Died: Thursday 28 July 2005, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (aged 84)
Position: Inside Forward
Inside-left Jair da Rosa Pinto, known simply as Jair, appeared for many of Brazil's top club sides and was the first player to wear his country's legendary number 10 shirt in the World Cup finals. He still holds a share of the record for goals in a single Copa América with nine, but was one of the players who suffered for Brazil's shock defeat in the 1950 World Cup by being cast out of the national team for many years.
Jair was born in Quatis in the state of Rio de Janeiro on 21 March 1921. Small and slightly built, he did not seem to have the necessary physical attributes to make it as a footballer but his frail appearance hid an incredibly powerful left foot shot, the weapon around which he built his game. Initially a left winger, Jair began his football career as a teenager with the youth teams of Vasco da Gama but unable to break through to the senior teams, left the club and signed his first professional contract with Madureira in 1938.
Jair remained with Madureira for five years, moving to what would become his regular position of inside-left. His team were never one of the leading clubs in the Rio state league, with a highest finishing position of fourth in 1942, but Jair's performances regularly caught the eye. Skilful on the ball and an accurate passer, he was able to both score and create goals with regularity. He became a regular member of the national team while still with Madureira, his debut having come in a dreadful 6-1 defeat to rivals Argentina in March 1940, but he did score Brazil's consolation goal in that game.
Always likely to earn a move to a bigger club, when that move came in 1943 it happened to be back to the team he had left years earlier, Vasco da Gama. Vasco began to challenge for major honours, finishing second in the Rio league in 1944. Following that season, Jair played for Brazil in the South American Championship in Chile in early 1945. He scored two goals in the 9-2 thrashing of Ecuador, but Brazil's loss to Argentina in their previous match proved pivotal as they finished second to their great rivals.
The first major honour of Jair's career did come in the 1945 season, when Vasco went one better than a year earlier and claimed the Rio state title by four clear points. In his second appearance in the South American Championship he scored two vital early goals in a thrilling 4-3 win over Uruguay, but again defeat to Argentina denied Brazil the title. Defending their title, Vasco only finished fifth in the league and Jair was beginning to grow frustrated at the club. Despite being one of the key players and leaders on the field, other players earned considerably more money than he did.
Ahead of the 1947 season, he left Vasco and moved to Flamengo. Jair scored 16 goals in his first season, but frustratingly had to watch his old club take the title. Although he won no major honours with Flamengo, the most triumphant tournament of Jair's career came during his time with the club in the South American Championship on home soil in 1949. Brazil got off to a flying start with a 9-1 win over Ecuador, in which Jair scored twice. He scored another against Bolivia and two more against both Peru and Uruguay, as Brazil reached their final match needing only a draw with Paraguay to be champions. Surprisingly they lost 2-1, meaning there would be a play-off for the title. That match was no contest, with Brazil winning 7-0 to claim only their second South American title and Jair scored the last two goals to finish as the tournament's leading scorer with nine in seven games. That record, although since tied, has never been beaten.
After a heavy defeat to Vasco in 1949, Jair was accused by some Flamengo fans of having thrown the game, an allegation with no evidence to support it. Nevertheless the incident forced Jair to leave the club. He joined Palmeiras, and during his first full season there was selected for the World Cup in 1950. Hosting the tournament, Brazil were massive favourites and initially all went well with inside-left Jair, centre forward Ademir and inside-right Zizinho forming a fearsome strike force.
Reaching the final group stage easily, two big wins over Sweden and Spain left Brazil needing only a draw in the last match against Uruguay. With the weight of the country's expectation on them, Brazil let slip the lead and eventually lost 2-1 in a result seen as a national disaster. The players were made scapegoats for the loss and many never played for Brazil again. For many years Jair, who was always haunted by the defeat, was one of those although he did make a brief return to the team six years later in the South American Championship. In all he scored 22 goals in 39 international appearances.
Jair remained at Palmeiras until 1955, where in his first season the club needed only to draw with closest rivals São Paulo to become state champions. Trailing 1-0, Jair dribbled the ball through heavy mud to set up the vital equalising goal and clinch the title by a single point. The rest of his time at the club was frustrating however, as the team was regularly edged out by Corinthians or São Paulo at the top of the league, finishing second three times in four seasons. In 1956 he moved on to reigning São Paulo state champions Santos, where he enjoyed much greater success. The state title was easily retained by seven clear points in his first season and Santos never finished outside the top two during Jair's time with the club, winning further titles in 1958 and 1960 with a team including a young Pelé.
Now approaching the age of 40, Jair left Santos in 1960 and spent one year with São Paulo, before moving on to Ponte Preta in 1962. After two seasons there he finally retired at the age of 42. He moved into coaching, taking charge of eight different clubs including several of his former teams. Jair was never particularly successful as a coach and eventually retired to the Rio neighbourhood of Tijuca, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in July 2005 at the age of 84, having suffered a pulmonary embolism.
References (all accessed 1 March 2012):
- Published on Thursday, 01 March 2012 13:05