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Born: Wednesday 8 November 1922, Recife, Brazil
Died: Saturday 11 May 1996, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (aged 73)
Position: Centre Forward
Centre forward Ademir was one of the stars of the Brazilian team which lost out on the 1950 World Cup in the final match a tournament in which he finished as leading goalscorer. Nicknamed 'the jaw' because of the shape of his chin, he scored more than 300 goals for Vasco da Gama and his abilities have been said to have played a big role in the introduction of a four-man defence in Brazilian football.
Ademir Marques de Menezes was born in Recife on 8 November 1922. Like most boys in the city, his first experiences of football came playing the game down on the beach but from an early age he stood out from the others. Encouraged by his father he joined neighbourhood club Centro Esportivo do Pina and it was there that the biggest team in the area, Sport Club do Recife, first noticed Ademir's talents.
Signing for Sport in 1938, he helped the club to win state titles at junior level before being called into the first team the following year, making his debut in a Pernambuco State League match against Tramways. In the early years of his career Ademir often played on the wing but was eventually moved to centre forward. His incredible speed and quick change of pace meant that opposing defenders regularly struggled to cope with him and his powerful shot with either foot made him a prolific goalscorer.
Through 1940 Ademir featured sporadically for Sport's first team but made a real breakthough in 1941. With 11 league goals he finished as the leading scorer in the Pernambuco league as Sport won the title for the first time in three years. During the close season, the club travelled around Brazil to play leading teams from other states, including a game against Vasco da Gama in Rio. In that match, Sport trailed 3-0 but Ademir turned the game round, scoring three and making two more to seal a 5-4 win. On the back of that performance, Vasco quickly signed him up ahead of the 1942 season.
Vasco struggled in Ademir's first season at the club, finishing only seventh, but gradually began to contend for major honours. In 1944 he scored 12 league goals as Vasco reached the final game of the season needing only to beat Flamengo to win the state title, but a narrow 1-0 defeat left them as runners-up. Ademir however had done enough to impress the national selectors and was picked in the squad for the South American Championship in Chile at the beginning of 1945.
Ademir appeared in all six of Brazil's games in that tournament, scoring five goals including a hat-trick in a 9-2 thrashing of Ecuador. He also scored Brazil's goal in a 3-1 defeat to Argentina, which ultimately cost them the title. Success was not long in coming however, as Vasco made up for the previous season's disappointment by claiming the state title in 1945. Ademir was clearly the star of the team and the coach of rivals Fluminense identified him as the player who could lead his team to championship success.
That hunch was proved to be correct. Despite the disappointment of failing to score in the South American Championship of 1946, Ademir signed for Fluminense ahead of that season. He went on to score 25 goals as the club won a championship tie-break tournament after four clubs had finished level on points. When his contract ran out at the end of 1947, Ademir returned to Vasco. Early in his second spell at the club he appeared in the first ever South American Club Championship, a forerunner of the Copa Libertadores, which Vasco won.
Now in his late 20s, Ademir was at the peak of his career. When Brazil hosted the South American Championship in 1949 he scored four goals as Brazil finished level with Paraguay at the top of the standings, before hitting a hat-trick in a 7-0 play-off win which gave Brazil the title. He also scored 30 goals in the Rio state league in 1949, finishing as top scorer as Vasco stormed to the title without losing a match. Another 25 goals followed in 1950, again the highest total in the league, with Vasco finishing as champions again.
It was this kind of form that led opposing clubs to start using a second centre-half to try to contain Ademir's speed and movement, one factor in the development of the 4-2-4 system which would come to dominate Brazilian football. Unsurprisingly, it was Ademir who led the forward line for Brazil in the 1950 World Cup, which as hosts the whole country expected them to win. All started well, as he scored twice in a 4-0 opening game win over Mexico and when Brazil had to beat Yugoslavia to reach the final round, got a vital early goal to set his country on the way to a 2-0 victory.
In the final group stage, Ademir scored four of Brazil's seven goals against Sweden and two out of a total of six against Spain, as the team appeared to be cruising to a first world title. Disaster struck however in the final game against Uruguay. Needing only a draw, Brazil led early in the second half but ultimately lost 2-1. The result was seen as a national disaster and many of the team were banished from the international set-up. Although his nine goals left his as the tournament's leading scorer, it would be nearly two years before Ademir played for Brazil again.
When he did return, it was for the Panamerican Championship in 1952, which Brazil won. In the must-win final match against Chile, he scored twice to help seal a 3-0 win. That year also brought another Rio state title and Ademir remained in the national squad for the South American Championship of 1953. However, he was used only in the early matches and did not appear in the final, which Brazil lost to Paraguay. That tournament marked the end of his international career, which had brought 32 goals in 39 games.
Ademir played on for a further two years with Vasco, without further success. By the end of the 1955 season he was beginning to feel that it was time to end his career but he was persuaded to move back to Recife to end his career where it had started, with Sport. Ademir played a handful of games as an amateur in the 1956 season, before finally retiring from playing aged 34. In retirement he became a journalist and radio commentator, although he did have a brief and unsuccessful spell as Vasco coach in 1967. After a battle with cancer, Ademir died on 11 May 1996, aged 73.
References (all accessed 6 March 2012):
- Published on Tuesday, 06 March 2012 17:42