Pele: The Boy With Three Hearts

Malcolm Allison: ‘How do you spell Pelé’
Pat Crerand: ‘Easy, G-O-D.’
ITV, World Cup Panel, 1970


Full Name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento

Born: October 23, 1940, Tres Coracoes, Minas Gerais

First Professional Club: Santos


The Best Of Pele


Pele: The Boy With Three Hearts

Of course if it had been up to his mother, Dona Celeste, her first-born son would have remained known as Dico, the first nickname given him by his family. As the wife of a failed footballer, Dico’s mother rated her son’s greatest passion somewhere beneath ‘bank robbery and the seven deadly sins’. Pelé was a name he picked up playing football and she didn’t want the stupid game ruining her son’s as well as her husband’s life.
Dona Celeste had given birth to Edson on 23 October 1940, in the town of Três Coraçoes (Three Hearts) in Minas Gerais. He was the first of the five children she would go on to have with her husband Joao Ramos de Nascimento.

On the streets of Três Coraçoes everyone knew Joao as Dondinho, the undoubted star of the town’s football team. Dondinho clung to the Micawberish belief that he only needed a stroke of luck to lift his family from poverty and into a life of luxury at one of the big city clubs in Rio, Sao Paulo or Belo Horizonte. His big break duly arrived when he was spotted by a scout for Atletico Mineiro, in Belo Horizonte. But during his first match for the club, against Sao Cristavao in Rio, he collided with the giant Augusto, later to captain Brazil in the 1950 World Cup. Dondinho fell so awkwardly and violently he was left with severely torn knee ligaments. The team doctors told him he would never play properly again. Atletico Mineiro paid for his return ticket to Três Coraçoes and his dream was over.

Dondinho continued to play football in Três Coraçoes, packing his knee with ice between games to avoid being permanently crippled. As his son said later, ‘It was the only way he knew of making money’. It was only when he was offered a place with FC Bauru in the state of Sao Paulo – and a public service job to go with it – that Dona Celeste finally stopped moaning that he should forget the insanity that was football. The extra money he would earn from his proper job would finally allow the family a decent home.
If Dona Celeste had hoped for better for her son, she was sorely disappointed during his early childhood. Edson failed to shine at school in Bauru, a railway town, where the family settled on the Rua Rubes Arruda. Rather than doing homework he would earn money as a shoeshine boy or selling the discarded peanuts he picked up from passing trains. On the fields of the Noroeste Club at the end of the Rua Rubes Arruda he also discovered his ability to play football.

On the football pitch his father’s influence was obvious. His father in turn thought Pelé had inherited the spirit of his uncle, one of Dondinho’s brothers who had died young. In years to come, however, it would be obvious that Edson’s genius owed as much to his mother’s gifts. As well as Dona Celeste’s small, slight build and her beguiling smile, he had also inherited her fearsome, inner strength. ‘Anyone who made a judgement about Dona Celeste based either on her lovely smile or her petite figure was in for a surprise,’ he would say later in life. Like mother like son. Even at the age of ten he possessed a strength of mind, body and spirit everyone thought extraordinary.
By then those who did not call him Dico were calling him by the name he would turn into the most famous four-letter word in sport. Pelé has no idea where his name came from, despite his own efforts to retrace its history. It may have come from his mispronunciation of the name of one of Minas Gerais’ most famous players at the time, Bele. It may have been a half-Portuguese, half-Turkish concoction dreamed up by one of the many Turks who watched him play. All he recalls for certain is that as a nine-year-old he hated it so much he would get into fights with those who called him it. ‘I must have lost most of them because the name stuck,’ he is fond of saying.

By the age of ten he was playing with much older children in a neighbourhood team, named September 7. It was there he was spotted by the former Brazilian international, Valdemar de Brito. Edson was thirteen when Brito invited him to play for the junior team at the town’s other club, AC Bauru.

As an attacking midfielder with the Syrio Libanes club in Sao Paulo, de Brito had played in the 1934 World Cup side under Luiz Vinhais. Even by Brazil’s voluble standards he was a loud and opinionated coach, ‘a shouter’ according to Pelé. He had been told to keep away from the town’s older players because of his boorishness. He seems to have introduced discipline into Pelé’s game, however. ‘He kept on to us continually about our mistakes, and was very good for me and four or five of my friends,’ Pelé recalled. As it turned out, Pelé was to be very good for Valdemar de Brito too.


De Brito had been posted to a civil service job in Bauru but was tired of life away from the more vibrant political centre of Sao Paulo. He had been working on a way of persuading Sao Paulo’s Governor Janio Quadros to bring him back to the cauldron of the capital. As he watched Pelé develop he saw his train ticket back to Sao Paulo.

De Brito approached a friend, Athie Jorge Couri, a member of the state legislature who also happened to be president of Santos – a club with ambitions to break the stranglehold the upper-class clubs like Corinthians, Sao Paulo FC and Palmeiras had placed on the Sao Paulo regional championship and the Brazilian National Championship, the Silver Cup. He was soon restored to the thick of the action with a civil service job in the state government offices. He also benefited from an agent’s fee from his friend Couri.

Dona Celeste had been against Pelé’s move to Santos. She had seen his father sacrifice everything for football and emerge penniless. ‘To me you are still a little boy, but everyone else seems to think you’re grown up,’ she complained. Ultimately, however, she saw that football offered his only realistic chance of an escape from life in Bauru. ‘You were never a good student, and I don’t want you sewing boots for the rest of your life,’ she told him.
Pelé found the transformation frightening. On the training pitch he stood out immediately. He was put on a special high-fibre diet and told to build himself up in the juvenil and amadores sides. By day the encouragement of elder statesmen like Zito and Jair kept him going. As one of the club’s unofficial errand boys he was also given a new nickname, Gasolina. (‘Get me a coffee kid, and don’t spare the gasolina.’) But by night, alone in a room with two cots, Pelé cried himself to sleep. After five days at Santos’ he rose one morning at 5 a.m., packed his belongings and began creeping his way out of the Vila Belmiro. If the Santos odd-job man, Big Sabu, had not spotted him with his suitcase as he left the ground for the local market, Pelé’s career as a professional might have ended there and then.

Pelé made an immediate impact for Santos’ juvenil and amadores sides, scoring the crucial goals that gave them the state championship. Yet, despite the special diet and training he was given, he remained too small and slight to make his mark at senior level. A piece of the luck his father had waited for all his life changed everything, however. Pelé had been in the stands when Santos’ main striker, the stylish Vasconcelos, suffered a gruesome broken leg in a match against Sao Paulo. Pelé stepped into the No. 10 shirt at the age of sixteen. He scored his first goal against Corinthians of Santo Andre on 7 September 1956 and scored sixteen more in his next ten appearances. From then on he never stopped rewriting the history of football.

Judi Slot Terbaik Dengan Berbagai Game

Slot Game Online

Slot online merupakan salah satu judi yang seru karena memberikan hadiah dalam jumlah besar. Selain itu, game ini mudah dimainkan. Anda tidak perlu berpikir analitis yang rumit. Pemain hanya perlu menekan menu putar atau spin. Agar permainan lebih nyaman, Anda sebaiknya memilih judi slot terbaik.

Permainan slot termasuk bagian penting di casino. Saat Anda berkunjung kesana, mesin-mesin slot berjajar rapi dalam jumlah besar di salah satu ruangan casino. Sebagian besar memakai platform komputer dan digital. Tampilannya menarik serta memiliki konsep unik.

Ketika mesin-mesin tersebut beralih ke server online, casino berhasil membuat layanan judi slot online. Akses tidak hanya untuk pemain lokal tetapi seluruh dunia. Selama mereka memiliki koneksi internet, game slot dapat dimainkan dimana saja. Selain itu, banyak agen dan bandar slot membuat varian lain sehingga lebih seru.

Fitur Dan Layanan Judi Slot Terbaik

Apa saja fitur dan layanan di situs judi slot terbaik? Secara umum, situs slot online ada dua yaitu provider dan agen. Sebuah website mampu membuat sistem dan beroperasi layaknya perusahaan resmi. Mereka adalah bandar atau provider. Sama dengan taruhan online lainnya, para provider bertanggung jawab terhadap sistem mereka sendiri.

Di lain pihak, sebagian besar situs slot online adalah agen judi. Mereka menyelenggarakan platform slot tersebut dengan bantuan pihak lain yaitu bandar. Sistem game dari provider tetapi layanan seperti akun, deposit, dan lainnya berasal dari pihak agen. Untuk mengetahui apa saja fitur dan layanan di slot game online, simak penjelasan berikut ini.

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Anda menanyakan tentang fitur judi online termasuk slot. Banyak orang akan menjawab game, bonus, dan deposit. Akan tetapi, mereka lupa bahwa akses adalah bagian penting. Anda dapat bermain di agen dan situs judi karena akses tersedia. Jika ini tidak berfungsi, layanan situs tersebut akan terganggu. Fitur ini sangat krusial untuk kelangsungan bisnis dan layanan judi slot. Situs judi terbaik adalah mereka yang selalu online dan aktif sehingga bisa dibuka langsung.

  • Deposit murah

Judi online seperti slot membutuhkan uang. Cara penggunaanya adalah dengan deposit. Untuk menjangkau dan menarik lebih banyak bettor, mereka menentukan batas deposit yang murah. Cara ini sangat efektif untuk memberikan kesempatan bagi semua orang agar bisa bermain judi slot secara langsung. Sistem deposit menggunakan beberapa cara yaitu transfer bank dan pulsa. Untuk cara terakhir, slot online masih menerapkannya secara langsung.

  • Variasi game slot

Saat membuka situs slot online, Anda bisa mengecek bahwa slot bukan sebuah satu game. Sebaliknya, ini adalah sebutan untuk layanan judi dengan konsep slot tetapi variasinya sangat banyak. Masing-masing memiliki tampilan tersendiri yang unik. Beberapa varian slot sudah terkenal sehingga sering dimainkan. Banyak orang suka akan game tersebut. Anda bisa mencobanya ketika baru pertama kali mengakses slot online. Selain itu, masih ada pilihan lain yang menarik untuk dicoba. Inilah salah satu keunggulan bermain di situs judi slot online.

  • Bonus dan hadiah besar

Situs judi slot memberikan dua tipe hadiah yaitu langsung dari game dan tidak langsung. Saat spin terhenti, Anda menang karena ada gambar yang sama atau memenuhi ketentuan yang sudah ditetapkan. Selanjutnya, bonus berupa chip segera masuk sebagai saldo. Ini adalah hadiah langsung dari situs judi slot. Bonus lain juga tersedia seperti turnover, cashback, deposit pertama, dan referral. Jenis dan variannya menyesuaikan dengan sistem yang ada di judi slot tersebut. Anda bisa memperoleh lebih banyak bonus apabila sering bermain. Sistem bonus ini berlangsung secara otomatis jadi chip bertambah.

  • Support terbaik

Fitur selanjutnya adalah support seperti customer service. Judi online sangat tergantung kepada layanan tersebut. Mereka secara khusus menyiapkan tim support untuk memastikan server dalam kondisi aman. Selain itu, CS akan menjawab dan membantu berbagai komplain. Ini adalah fitur penting agar layanan judi slot berlangsung dengan lancar.

Situs Judi Slot Terbaik Dan Terpercaya

Beberapa fitur lain di situs judi tersebut juga tersedia seperti withdraw. Anda memiliki saldo yang cukup untuk diambil lalu memilih menu withdraw. Ini adalah proses untuk mencairkan uang tersebut. Situs judi membutuhkan rekening yang valid agar transaksi berlangsung dengan aman dan terjamin.

Provider dan agen judi slot selalu meningkatkan sistem. Mereka membuat beberapa game dan merilis versi baru. Cara ini bertujuan agar slot semakin seru dan tidak membosankan. Selain konsep gameplay klasik, ada juga slot versi arcade termasuk ketangkasan. Sebelum bermain, cek terlebih dahulu jumlah saldo. Jika masih kurang, lakukan deposit dan dapatkan bonus karena mengisi lebih dari batas minimal. Situs judi slot terbaik memiliki semua fitur dan layanan yang dibutuhkan agar para pemain merasa nyaman.

5 Jenis Permainan Judi Online Terpercaya

Situs Judi Bola Terpercaya

Situs judi online terpercaya kini makin mudah ditemukan dengan adanya pilihan permainan yang makin inovatif. Player online kekinian yang ingin cara cepat untuk mendapat hasil juga lebih memilih situs judi ketimbang harus datang langsung ke tempat permainan. Game yang disediakan oleh layanan online jauh lebih banyak dan mudah diakses dari pada berbagai game yang ada di rumah judi khusus. Situs menjadi pilihan yang sangat tepat untuk mendapat semua jenis game populer dan pasti lebih aman. Gamer akan lebih sedikit melakukan kontak dengan pihak lain yang bisa membuat mereka jadi nyaman dan merasa lebih aman.

Game-Game Populer Situs Judi Online Terpercaya

Karena berbasis layanan online maka player atau pengguna bisa bebas memilih jenis permainan apa yang mereka inginkan. Tidak hanya game kartu saja yang mendominasi permainan di dalamnya akan tetapi berbagai game dengan peluang kemenangan yang juga tinggi sangat banyak dijumpai. Inovasi yang dipakai untuk memberikan permainan terbaik juga dilihat dari kebutuhan player yang bergabung di dalamnya. Makin tinggi minat pengguna maka akan makin banyak fasilitas dan juga fitur terbaik yang bisa dipilih untuk taruhan. Dengan acuan game online yang gampang maka hasil yang akan keluar juga lebih baik. Berikut 5 game terbaik yang jadi pilihan penjudi:

  1. Poker

Poker secara luas telah dikenal hampir semua penjudi di seluruh dunia. Game ini pula punya turnamen internasional yang resmi dan dapat diikuti oleh banyak orang dari seluruh dunia. Game dilakukan berdasarkan dari kombinasi kartu yang dimiliki. Kombinasi kartu dalam poker terdapat 10 jenis. Semuanya untuk mencari keberuntungan jika Dewi Fortuna sedang berpihak pada mereka. Permainan poker dimulai dari pembagian dua buah kartu pada masing-masing penjudi yang bermain. Dua kartu ini dipakai untuk menentukan langkah dari pemain itu sendiri. Pihak dealer juga akan membuka satu persatu kartu yang mereka miliki. Kartu tersebut juga berguna untuk melihat kombinasi yang akan dihasilkan. Apabila kartu milik player dan dealer menghasilkan kombinasi terbaik maka player yang memiliki kombinasi tersebut lah yang akan menang.

  1. Judi bola

Permainan yang juga semakin populer di saat-saat tertentu adalah judi bola. Sepak bola telah tumbuh dan mengembangkan sayap mereka hingga ke berbagai pelosok negeri. Pertandingan sepak bola sudah sangat lumrah dilihat dan dijadikan sebagai acuan untuk melakukan taruhan. Permainan ini memiliki turnamen sepak bola tingkat internasional yang diikuti oleh banyak negara dunia. Piala dunia sepak bola menjadi kunci banyaknya peminat yang ingin main judi jenis ini. Judi bola mulai berkembang di abad ke 18 dimana para bangsawan memakai tim-tim lokal untuk bertaruh. Mereka tidak segan menggunakan banyak dana untuk mempertaruhkan satu buah tim tertentu yang dianggap akan membawakan keberuntungan untuk mereka. Player yang ingin main judi ini harus menebak tim mana yang akan menang atau menggunakan taruhan poin yang dihasilkan. Dengan tingginya minat tersebut banyak pihak mulai mengembangkan situs judi bola terpercaya untuk mendapatkan keuntungan dalam jumlah besar.

  1. Togel online

Permainan tebak angka yang sarat akan keuntungan adalah togel. Permainan togel telah turun temurun di berbagai kalangan termasuk untuk masyarakat Indonesia. Permainan ini sudah sangat modern dengan menggunakan pasaran-pasaran yang berasal dari banyak negara. Pool Hongkong, Taiwan, Singapura hingga Macau bisa jadi referensi yang cukup menguntungkan dari sekian banyak permainan. Bettor harus menebak empat angka yang akan keluar dari pool pilihan secara akurat. Apabila pilihan angka benar maka gambler akan mendapat kemenangan.

  1. Casino

Judi keempat yang penuh keuntungan adalah casino. Pada layanan ini terdapat beberapa jenis game yang dapat dipilih menyesuaikan kebutuhan. Game tersebut antara lain adalah judi roullete, sicbo hingga permainan kartu seperti judi blackjack dan juga baccarat. Masing-masing bisa dimainkan dengan sangat mudah sesuai kebutuhan player dan kemampuan yang mereka miliki.

  1. Slot online

Judi yang memakai mesin ini awalnya juga sangat terkenal di rumah casino. Permainan yang bisa dilakukan seorang diri ini memiliki jumlah taruhan yang sangat menguntungkan. Player tidak perlu menentukan jumlah minimali sesuai dengan player lain sebab mereka bebas bertaruh dengan jumlah uang yang mereka miliki. Bettor hanya perlu melakukan satu kali langkah saja dengan menggunakan menu spin lalu tinggal melihat hasilnya.

Tips Memilih Game Yang Paling Menguntungkan

Memilih game online yang membawa keuntungan adalah hal yang cukup sulit. Hal ini dipengaruhi oleh kemampuan masing-masing pihak untuk melakukan permainan. Player harus memilih game berdasar dari pengetahuan dan juga kemampuan mereka. Jika player punya pengalaman dan juga kemampuan main judi kartu maka poker bisa jadi pilihan. Begitupun jika memiliki tebakan angka yang akurat maka player bisa memilih untuk main judi togel.

Panduan Mencari Situs Qiu Qiu Online

Situs Poker Terbaru

Jika saat ini kamu ingin mencoba bermain game judi kartu yang mudah tapi juga menguntungkan, maka kamu bisa coba bermain game qiu qiu online. Banyak orang yang bermain game qiu qiu lantaran game ini tidak hanya sekedar untuk dimainkan dan dinikmati saja tapi para pemain yang melakukan taruhan qiu qiu juga akan merasakan yang namanya keuntungan besar.

Untung yang didapatkan dari taruhan qiu qiu tidak bisa disepelekan karena banyak pemain yang bahkan menjadi kaya raya hanya dengan bermain judi qiu qiu. Kamu juga bisa mendapatkan taruhan yang bebas dilakukan kapan saja dan dimana saja karena game qiu qiu sendiri adalah game judi online yang hanya mengandalkan perangkat seperti handphone atau bisa juga dengan menggunakan komputer yang memiliki jaringan internet.

Tips Mencari Situs Poker Terbaru dan Terpercaya

Ada banyak tempat atau situs yang bisa digunakan untuk bermain game qiu qiu salah satunya adalah di situs poker terbaru dan terpercaya. Di situs ini, orang-orang yang bermain judi bisa mendapatkan taruhan yang lebih menyenangkan. Tapi sayangnya mendapatkan situs yang terpercaya bukan perkara mudah. Berikut ini panduan yang bisa kamu lakukan jika ingin mencari situs judi terpercaya.

  1. Memiliki lisensi resmi

Jika ingin bermain judi poker yang menyenangkan, maka kamu harus temukan situs poker yang sudah mengantongi lisensi resmi. Sertifikat resmi ini hanya diberikan kepada situs yang bertanggung jawab terhadap semua anggota yang bertaruh di dalamnya. Tanggung jawab disini tidak hanya menyediakan taruhan yang banyak dan lengkap tapi juga bertanggung jawab untuk memberikan uang yang banyak kepada para anggota yang sudah memenangkan taruhan di dalamnya. Jadi sebaiknya cari situs yang memiliki lisensi resmi.

  1. Memiliki daftar permainan yang lengkap

Meski sekarang ini situs yang dicari adalah situs poker online, bukan berarti hanya akan ada taruhan poker yang disediakan di situs ini. Banyak taruhan judi yang lain yang bisa didapatkan oleh para pemain jadi jika kamu ingin bermain judi nanti kamu bisa mendapatkan taruhan apa saja hanya dengan melakukan sekali saja pendaftaran. Untuk melakukan pendaftaran sendiri tidak terlalu sulit dan tidak membutuhkan biaya juga. Jadi banyak hal yang akan kamu dapatkan dari situs terpercaya yang kamu dapatkan.

  1. Memiliki sistem keamanan yang tinggi

Di situs poker yang terbaru dan terpercaya juga terkenal dengan sistem keamanan yang tinggi. Kamu akan mendapatkan jaminan keamanan yang tinggi jika bermain di situs yang seperti ini. Para pemain diharuskan mendapatkan situs yang aman karena memang di situs yang seperti ini para pemain akan mendapatkan jaminan jika semua data yang sudah diberikan ke dalam situs akan senantiasa dijaga kerahasiaannya oleh pihak situs judi.  Dan dengan keamanan yang tinggi ini juga pastinya taruhan akan terasa jauh lebih nyaman.

  1. Layanan cs beroperasi selama 24 jam penuh

Di situs judi terpercaya juga sangat menarik karena ada layanan cs yang siap beroperasi selama 24 jam penuh. Jadi para pemain yang ingin bertanya atau tengah mengalami masalah di area situs bisa langsung tanyakan ke cs saat itu juga. Dengan dihadirkannya layanan cs yang beroperasi kapan saja ini tentu para pemain akan mendapatkan kesenangan ketika bertaruh judi. Pemain juga bisa menentukan sendiri kapan ingin bermain nanti.

  1. Bonus yang beragam dan menarik

Dan situs yang terpercaya juga identik dengan bonus yang beragam dan menarik. Di situs yang seperti ini ada banyak sekali bonus menarik yang akan didapatkan oleh setiap pemain judi online jadi jika kamu saat ini ingin mendapatkan bonus yang beragam ini sebaiknya bertaruhlah di situs yang terpercaya. Untuk persentase bonus yang diberikan biasanya tergantung dari situs yang dipilih. Jika kamu bertaruh di situs terpercaya, bonus yang diberikan pastinya sangat menarik tapi tetap dalam batas yang wajar.

Mengenal Bonus-Bonus di Situs Poker Terpercaya

Untuk mendapatkan bonus-bonus yang ada di situs terpercaya, kamu harus mengenal dulu bonus apa saja yang biasanya dihadirkan di situs tersebut. Bonus-bonus di situs sangat banyak mulai dari bonus new member atau bonus pendatang baru yang diberikan untuk orang-orang yang baru bergabung ke dalam situs judi. Ada juga bonus deposit bagi para pemain yang melakukan deposit. Bonus deposit sendiri akan diberikan sesuai syarat dan ketentuan yang berlaku. Dan bonus referral juga akan diberikan kepada para pemain jika pemain tersebut mampu mengajak orang lain untuk gabung ke dalamnya. Dengan bonus-bonus yang dihadirkan tentu akan membuat keuntungan yang didapatkan pemain jadi lebih banyak. Para pemain juga akan mendapatkan kesenangan karena banyak hal yang didapatkan dengan mudah setelah gabung di situs terpercaya.

Carlos Alberto – O Capitao

Name: Carlos Alberto Torres
Born: July 17, 1944, Rio
First Professional Club: Fluminense

Carlos  Alberto was born on 17 July 1944, one of twin brothers. With his twin Carlos Roberto, brother Jose Luis and sister Maria Helena, he grew up in the old Rio suburb of Vila da Penha. ‘I came from a modest family; my father Francisco was a public employee in the city hall of Rio,’ he says. ‘But maybe it was good for me somehow because I had to learn by myself.’

His father knew that education was the key to a better life for his children. Francisco would come home from his office job, eat a meal then head back out into the Rio streets to spend the night as a taxi driver. ‘He made a big effort to earn a little more for us,’ says Carlos Alberto. He too was working by the age of fourteen, saving money each month to go to the local cinema in Vila da Penha. ‘I liked cowboy films,’ he smiles. Bright and diligent, Carlos Alberto shone at the junior Escola Grecia and then Colegio Souza Aguiar in Vila da Penha, before moving on to college at the local Educandario Santa Fatima.

All three of the Torres brothers played football. It was the bigger, faster, more physical Carlos Alberto who was spotted by coaches from Fluminense. He began playing as a juvenil, or junior, at the age of fifteen. The decision to play for the famous red, white and green stripes flew in the face of his passion for their arch-rivals, the red and blacks of Flamengo. His boyhood idols were Didi and Nilton Santos, the black rock at the heart of the national team’s World Cup defence. He still calls Santos, the bulwark in Sweden and Chile, ‘the biggest phenomenon in football history’.

Yet the money he earned playing twice a week for the juvenil side was simply too good to be missed. With his father’s encouragement, he had soon quit his job as an office boy and committed himself to football. ‘I earned as much as I did working the whole week in my other job.’

If Brazil’s raw materials were the finest in the world, it was its apprentice system that ensured its rough diamonds were polished into the most perfect of jewels. As a juvenil, Carlos Alberto trained with the professionals and had professional coaching. Vast crowds would watch even the preliminary games he played in. If a professional was injured he would be drafted in as temporary cover. When it came to the leap to the first team he was ready. By the time he was eighteen Carlos Alberto had established himself as the right-back in the Fluminense first team. He had been drafted into the Brazilian national squad before his twentieth birthday.

Carlos Alberto made his international debut marking Bobby Charlton at the Maracana^· during the 1964 Nations Cup between Brazil, England, Portugal and Argentina. The familiarity of the ground and the crowd helped him subdue both his nerves and a Charlton at the peak of his powers. Brazil won the game at a canter, 5–1. ‘I felt calm and I played very well,’ he says quietly. He would come across Charlton many times in the course of his subsequent life. ‘A great man, a great man.’

Carlos Alberto remained a fixture in Feola’s team all the way through to 1966. By then he had become the most expensive footballer in Brazilian history. Shortly after leading Fluminense to the Carioca championship in 1965, he was transferred to Santos for the then unheard-of sum of 200,000 cruzeiros.

His pride was soon to be dented. As Feola announced his 22-man squad for England, Carlos Alberto was overlooked in favour of the older, more experienced Djalma Santos. To add insult to injury, Fidelis of Bangu was preferred as the reserve right-back. For all the glory he would go on to, Carlos Alberto still feels the rejection. ‘There was no explanation. To this day I don’t know why,’ he says, shaking his head.

Despite this, Santos spotted his natural leadership qualities when the great Zito retired. ‘I have always had that personality of talking in the game, calling the attention of my team-mates, giving advice,’ he says. ‘That is my spirit. Zito stopped playing in 1967 and I was selected captain of Santos.’ As Brazil rebuilt in the aftermath of 1966, he seemed the most obvious candidate for the captaincy there too.

If there were politics involved in his acquisition of the black armband of Brazil he is politically savvy enough to have conveniently forgotten them. ‘Since Santos was considered the best team in Brazil and the world at the time, maybe they thought there was nothing more fair than if I was the captain of the Brazilian team,’ he says with a diplomatic shrug. Whatever the reasoning, Carlos Alberto quickly grew into the finest leader Brazil has ever possessed.

The first test of that leadership came in the chaotic aftermath of the Saldanha affair. Carlos Alberto had found little to fault under Saldanha’s management, hardly surprising since he had built his early sides almost entirely around Santos players. At one stage in 1969 the captain led an all-Santos back five including goalkeeper Claudio, Djalma Dias, Joel and Hilton. With Pelé and Edu the Santos contingent reached seven. As Saldanha’s confidence disintegrated, however, the captain could not condone his treatment of his friend and clubmate Pelé.

Since his arrival at Santos, his friendship with Pelé had been deep. ‘We lived in the same building. I have always had good relations with him, we are still friends now,’ he says. When Saldanha began suggesting that Pelé’s eyesight was defective and he should be dropped, Carlos Alberto sensed that panic had overtaken the manager. ‘I have never seen anyone who had anything against Pelé as a person,’ he says simply.

Carlos Alberto’s position is as unequivocal today as it was then. ‘Pelé was the player in whom we trusted,’ he says, still bemused to be asked whether the team could have prospered without him. ‘If Pelé is with us, we are with God.’ He does not know the whole truth, but suspects Saldanha had simply become scared of the pressure. ‘We knew that we had to win and the team had not settled. Maybe he feared losing the Cup?’ he says, throwing his arms up. ‘I don’t know.’

Wherever the truth rests, Carlos Alberto’s importance to the Brazilian cause only deepened in the weeks after their maverick manager’s departure. On 26 March 1970, in the second of Zagalo’s matches against Chile, he wielded his inspirational leadership on the field. By now the instability in the dressing room was affecting some players’ performances. As Brazil once more failed to gel, Jairzinho and Roberto were ordered off following a mass brawl with Laube and Silva. The match was held up for twelve minutes as officials separated the players. It was Carlos Alberto who calmed the side’s nerves, equalizing Castro’s eighteenth-minute goal himself early in the second half.

In the weeks leading up to the departure for Mexico his influence was at its most profound off the pitch. After the frenetic Saldanha, Zagalo’s reserved manner left the players frustrated and confused. Following a dismal 3–1 win over a local, ‘Mineiro’ selection in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, and another goalless draw, this time at the Morumbi in Sa^·o Paulo against World Cup finalists Bulgaria, there was an unmistakable whiff of mutiny in the air.

With Pelé and Gérson, Carlos Alberto formed the team’s holy trinity. On the night of Tuesday, 28 April, in Pelé’s room at the Hotel Paineiras in Rio, they held an hour-long meeting that effectively moulded the course of events over the next two months. The cobras gathered with the boos of the 70,000 Morumbi crowd still reverberating inside their heads. With Zagalo seemingly unwilling to share his thoughts on specific tactics, they chose the team and the pattern they wanted to take on to the pitch for their final match before leaving Brazil, against Austria at the Maracana^· the following night.

As the most directly affected, another three players, Tostao, Rivellino and Clodoaldo were later called into Pelé’s quarters. Dario’s failure against Bulgaria had proved once and for all that there was no place for an out-and-out centre-forward in games against tight European defences. Tosta^·o agreed with the cobras’ idea that he play at inside left with Pelé taking a position slightly forward of him in the middle. Rivellino would adapt to a dual role as a covering midfielder whilst attacking on both wings. The young Clodoaldo agreed to patrol the rear of the midfield.

Afterwards the trio had a meeting with Zagalo who, in turn consented to let them try their formation. He told them he would watch from the stands where he would reserve the right to change tactics via radio conversations with Mario Americo. Félix had been told of his reinstatement over Ado and Leao in goal the previous night. It was only in the dressing room on the following evening that the remainder of the team were made aware of the changes. Piazza, brought in for Joel, was told he would be playing as a fourth defender only minutes before he took the pitch. A fired-up Gérson gave the final pep talk.

Rivellino scored the winner in a 1–0 win. Far more importantly, however, the side rediscovered the shape and fluency it had lost since Saldanha’s departure. Of the team that played that night, only Rogério, substituted for his great rival in the right wing position, Jairzinho, would not make it all the way to the finals in Mexico.

As far as Carlos Alberto was concerned, after that the key to Mexico lay with the stopwatches and slide-rules of Coutinho and his Cooper Tests. ‘Even if Zagalo had not taken over the team, even if we had Saldanha or any other coach, we had the team. We were not arrogant about it, but we were confident that if we were really well prepared physically we could win the World Cup.’

Hear Carlos Alberto talk about his goal against Italy in the 1970 Final.

Brazil 1970: Football’s Finest Hour

Brazil’s victory with the ball compares with the conquest of the moon by the Americans.’ Jornal do Brasil, June 1970

To football fans the world over, the 1970 Brazilians were – and remain – The Beautiful Team.

In winning the World Cup of that year in Mexico, Tostao, Rivellino, Gerson, Jairzinho, Clodoaldo, Carlos Alberto and, of course, Pele, lifted the game to levels of skill, sophistication and style it has never recaptured since. 

Explore this website to discover more about the men who made up that magical side.

Relive The Magic: Watch How Brazil Won The 1970 World Cup

Men From The Moon

In June 1970 I was a twelve-year-old schoolboy, hopelessly obsessed with the World Cup finals. I spent as much time as my father would allow glued to the household’s large, rather ungainly new colour television set. Russia v. Mexico, England v. Czechoslovakia and Rumania, highlights of Israel v. Italy, I watched the lot. What little spare time I had was spent poring over copies of Goal, Football Monthly or the old Daily Mirror and the dispatches of sunburnt scribes like Frank McGhee and Ken Jones.

Owing to some cunning forward planning, even demands that I get on with some homework failed to deflect me. My main school project that term was on the nations of the World Cup. With scissors and paste I had put together a guide to the sixteen participating countries on the back of a roll of old wallpaper. The roll now circled the classroom of the school’s most football-minded master, a man called Dennis Jones. Each section featured a potted history, a photo of the nation’s World Cup squad and a few relevant images. Italy were represented by the Pope and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. El Salvador, who had gone to war with Honduras after their qualification match, by a picture from an old World War II comic. God only knows what I used to represent Bulgaria and Morocco. Thankfully here my memory does fail me.


Football – or to be more precise, international football – had been something of a drug since I was seven or so. It was, of course, the previous World Cup – England’s World Cup, that had fired the whole thing off. Since then I had got terribly excited about Celtic v. Inter Milan and Manchester United v. Benfica on television. Thanks to a piece of inspired ticket acquisition by my father, I would soon see Cardiff City’s 1–0 win over Amancio, Gento and the gods of Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup in the unforgettable flesh along with 47,500 others at Ninian Park. Yet Mexico marked the dawn of a new, even more exciting era, and not just because this was the first World Cup to be beamed live from the other side of the world in glorious, living colour. One man, and one team, elevated it to the realms of magic.


In hindsight it seems natural that Pele and the 1970 Brazilians should have arrived in our living room the year after the first moon landing. Tostao and Gérson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto, Rivellino and Clodoaldo shared much more than their number with Neil Armstrong and his crew. They were, after Apollo 11, the second great event of the new, telecultural age. It seemed fitting that their games were transmitted from Central America via a satellite in outer space. From their opening match against Czechoslovakia it was clear they were visitors from another footballing world. (We should have guessed they’d carried out the same NASA training programmes as the astronauts.)

Brazil alone seemed to justify the extra money my father would now have to pay for upgrading his old monochrome licence. All coffee browns and ebony blacks, cobalt blues and canary yellows, their players and their playing came in shades I had never seen before. Each of their games seemed to be a drama filled with flashing free kicks, 50-yard passes and even longer-range shots. Their kit, their running, even their celebrations seemed more vivid and vibrant than anything I had witnessed before. Bobby Charlton still shook hands when he scored. Not that he was doing much of that as he melted in the Mexican heat. Pelé and company cavorted and congratulated each other like lovers at the end of a seven-year separation. Then there were the names: exotic, moody mononyms like Tostao (‘the little coin’), Gerson and Jair, Clodoaldo and Rivellino. For three weeks, I was mesmerized by them. They have occupied a sun-kissed corner of my memory ever since.


Their glorious summer reached its climax on that rainy Sunday, 21 June. In the days before the Final, I had feared for them. Part of Brazil’s magic, I realize now, lay in their fallibility. Their defence leaked like an old, rusted bucket. In Italy they faced the most cynical and professional side in the world. Wise men in Mexico were calling the Final a battle for football’s soul, a dance to the death between the free expression of Brazil’s samba football and the organizational coldness of catenaccio, the pincer defence that was Italy’s only gift to world football. The tactical complexities were a bit beyond me back then. I saw it as a contest between a collection of inspiring if occasionally naive geniuses and a bunch of Italian hitmen. I desperately wanted Brazil to win.
They did, slaughtering Italy with the most exhilarating football ever to win a World Cup Final.


Pele got them moving, leaping like the proverbial salmon to head past Albertosi. Every Pelé goal was an occasion, but this was special – the hundredth goal Brazil had scored in the World Cup finals. Even their eccentric keeper Felix played a blinder, making one great stop from Italy’s Sardinian assassin Luigi Riva. Gerson, their balding, eternally-chattering generalissimo, put them back ahead again after an uncharacteristic error by the young Clodoaldo had let in Boninsegna for an equalizer. Jairzinho bundled in a third to become the first player ever to score in all matches in the finals, then Carlos Alberto scored the fourth, a weave of interpassing started by the now redeemed Clodoaldo and the best goal of the lot. In years to come the phrase would pass peacefully into the obscurity reserved for the very worst sporting clichés. On 27 June 1970, however, it seemed as if the game of football truly was the winner.


The final whistle brought bedlam. Much had been made of the intimidating moat keeping the Azteca hordes at bay. Suddenly it seemed as if even the Brazilian fans could walk on water. Thanks to the miracle of colour television, I saw Tostao stripped down to a pair of blue underpants. Pelé was lost under the biggest sombrero in Mexico. The presentation was delayed by fifteen minutes as the players fought their way through the throng.


As Carlos Alberto lifted and kissed the Jules Rimet trophy we knew we would never see the old trophy again. Brazil had won it for the third time. It was theirs to take home back to Rio and keep. What we did not know was that we would not see football like this again. As the sun set on the Azteca that afternoon, so too a golden sporting age faded, never to return.

By the time Brazil came to defend their world championship in West Germany four years later, Pelé, Gérson and Tostao had all retired. Jairzinho returned, more muscled and sporting an Afro haircut straight from the Shaft movies of the day, but his rampaging runs were no more. Rivellino still fired in a free kick or two, but he was also reduced to squaring up to Billy Bremner of Scotland. It seemed as if the gods had fallen off their pedestal.


The freewheeling, fantasy football had gone, replaced by a pragmatic, European style. Europe – in the free-thinking form of Johann Cruyff and Holland – reverted to historical type and once more played the conquistadores. Cruyff and co. were a sight to behold. But Brazil were a heartbreaking shadow of their former extraterrestrial selves. After that, despite a brief return – naturally enough in a team led by Socrates – to the old philosophy in 1982, the real Brazil disappeared. So too, for me anyhow, did some of the magic of the World Cup.

Brazil finally won the crown again in 1994, sending the most passionate football nation on earth into deliria. I was in California when it happened and witnessed the scenes in Pasadena as the samba beat out. But it wasn’t the same. Theirs was a triumph of tactical nous and modest flair. Even Brazil’s most ardent fans do not claim the heroes of that win deserved a place on football’s Olympus. Talk of Bebeto and Romario, Dunga and Rai and grown men will nod in respectful acknowledgement. Mention Pelé and Tostao, Gérson and Jairzinho and you may see those same grown men cry.


Almost thirty years on, the shadow cast by the 1970 Brazilians seems longer than ever. This isn’t just sentiment, the statistics bear me out here. Videos of their campaign remain bestsellers. (So do their shirts, apparently the world’s most popular replica football clothing.) Few of football’s legion of new writers can resist referring longingly to their greatness. Even the best of the older ones, Hugh McIlvaney, admits they ‘may have represented the highest point of beauty and sophistication the game is destined to reach’


In the years since their triumph, FIFA and its potentates have moulded football into a global obsession and a multi-billion-dollar business. Yet like the multinationals it now conspires with, the game’s ruling body profits from a product as humdrum and homogenized as a Big Mac or a Diet Coke. As the game has got bigger so its teams and its players seem to have shrunk with it. When Pelé opened Euro 96 at Wembley, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Perhaps we were crying for our lost footballing selves?

Over the years I had often wondered what had happened to those heroes of twenty-seven summers ago. Only Pelé, now Brazil’s sports minister, remained a world figure. Carlos Alberto joined him at the New York Cosmos, but I had seen or read nothing on the rest of that magnificent eleven. All manner of tales had drifted my way as time went by. How the team and its stars had been exploited for political ends by the then military dictatorship. How, mainly for political reasons, Pelé, Gérson and Carlos Alberto had refused to defend their title in Germany even though they were fit to play. How the intellectual Tosta^·o had walked away from fame and football to become a near recluse. How one or two had tumbled into the sort of booze-hazed half-life that had put paid to the careers of geniuses like George Best and Garrincha.

In the spring of 1997, with the last World Cup of the century approaching, I set off to find them. The search would take me on a journey of 12,000 miles and to four major Brazilian cities and one minor one. A little of what I had heard turned out to be the truth, or close to it, at least. Most of the mythology turned to the disreputable dust I had always hoped it would. Instead I discovered a collection of stories that were sometimes colourful, often crazy but always compelling. This then is the story of that journey. Much more importantly, it is the story of that bewitching, beautiful team …

Wilson Piazza – The Ball Thief

Name: Wilson Oliveira Piazza

Born: February 25, 1943, Ribeirao Das Neves, Minas Gerais

First Professional Club: Esporte Clube Renascenca, Belo Horizonte


Wilson Piazza – The Ball Thief

Wilson Oliveira Piazza was born in the town of Ribeirao Das Neves, Minas Gerais, on 25 February 1943, the son of Jose Piazza and Regina Da Silva Piazza.

He describes his childhood as an unremarkable one. His family were modestly comfortable. Piazza was an average student but left school at fifteen for an office job at a tyre company on the Avenida Antonio Carlos. The company had its own football team where he quickly shone.

Piazza was bright and acutely ambitious. He landed a job as a clerk at Banco Mercantil De Minas Gerais and for a while looked set for a commercial career. His true passion, however, was football: ‘I wanted to be a professional. Even if I had to play in the worst team in the world, I knew I had to make that dream come true.’

For a time he juggled his two lives, playing football every morning until midday then working at the bank from 1 p.m. until 9 p.m. – or later. Piazza’s job was to balance the bank’s books at the close of business each day. Some days the figures fitted, some days they did not. ‘We could not go home if there was a cruzeiro difference. Sometimes we were there until 11 p.m. or midnight. Once I didn’t go home at all and slept in the bank.’ He remained at the bank until he was twenty-three and able to live full time off his football. By then he had already emerged as an international in the making.

He was eighteen when he was offered a place as a junior at Esporte Clube Renascença. Though unimposing physically, his determination and intelligence as a ball-winning, creative midfielder soon established him as one of the rising stars in Belo Horizonte. His breakthrough came three years later, when he was transferred to Cruzeiro, a club about to put Mineiro football on the map.

Since the so-called Brazilian National Championship had begun in 1950, the trophy had never left the big two cities, Rio and Sao Paulo – hardly surprising since it was not open to sides from other states. It would not be until 1971 that a Mineiro side, Atletico, would win a genuinely pan-Brazilian title. Equally the international side was almost exclusively made up of players from the big city clubs.

Cruzeiro announced their arrival in 1965, when Belo Horizonte’s 110,000 capacity Minerao stadium was opened. They beat Santos, and Pelé, 4–3 in a specially arranged match. A year later they beat Brazil’s reigning kings of club football again, this time lifting the Copa Brazil, the nearest to a truly national title, as they did so. Mineiro football was on the map at last.
In 1966, Piazza’s clubmate Tostao would be the first player from a Mineiro side to break into the national XI. Where he led, Piazza and other stars like Dirceu and Natal, and later Fontana and Dario, would follow.

Much like Santos, Cruzeiro were bonded by a tight-knit, brotherly atmosphere within the club. The directors’ policy of selecting almost exclusively Mineiro players only deepened their devotion to the Cruzeiro cause. ‘There was only one player, Raul, who was not Mineiro. So that team in the 1960s was like a family,’ Piazza explains.

In the wake of 1966, the national squad was forced to cast its net wider in its search for players capable of making up for the disgrace. Piazza joined Tostao in the first Brazilian national squad assembled post-England under Aimore Moreira in 1967. By the qualification matches in 1969, he had formed a powerful midfield partnership with Gérson. Piazza’s intelligence and tenacity looked the perfect complement to Gérson’s visionary distribution. His nickname at Cruzeiro was ladrao de bola, the ball thief. He supplied the bombardier’s bullets.

The energetic young Clodoaldo’s emergence at the end of Saldanha’s reign had, however, offered Zagalo an even stronger option. When a switch to the centre of defence was suggested after Carlos Alberto, Gérson and Pelé’s Rio summit on the eve of the Austria match, Piazza had been reluctant. ‘I was a combative player, I liked to be in the action in the middle of the pitch. Suddenly I found myself stuck at the back,’ he says. A natural all-rounder, he made the transition comfortably enough in the match against Austria. Yet as Zagalo stuck with the idea of using him as a defender, he felt like a square peg alongside Carlos Alberto and Brito. ‘I was used to giving more of myself. At the end of the game it seemed as if I hadn’t played, my shirt wasn’t wet,’ he says. Piazza found himself repeating the phrase the cachaça-hazed Garrincha made infamous: ‘Is it the end?’

He was, of course, not alone in playing out of position. With the exception of the defence, almost the entire midfield and attack was learning to adapt to a sometimes radical change in their position. To the Brazilian public, however, Piazza’s new role seemed the most dramatic conversion since St Paul. It became one of the dominant debates in the press in the days after the squad’s departure. Even his mother chimed in with a plea to Zagalo that her boy be restored to his rightful position in midfield.

Piazza’s greatest fear was that he would not be able to compete with the Europeans’ long-ball game. ‘We called it the jogo aereo, the air game. I am 1.66 metres (around 5ft 10in) so I thought, “Oh my God, I’m here in the World Cup and they play the jogo aereo, they will do what they want”.’ Zagalo, however, remained convinced that with Clodoaldo and Piazza, he had the sheet anchors he needed to allow Gérson and Rivellino to play.

Piazza’s calming, Mineiro influence would prove priceless in the weeks to come. On the eve of the opening match it deserted him, however. He recalls spending the night before the Czech match playing a card game, caxeta, with Carlos Alberto long into the night. ‘After months of training you are anxious to begin. I was very nervous, like a bull.’ The opening moments of his World Cup did little to ease his anxiety.

Piazza remembers feeling dazed after Petras’ early goal. ‘It was like if you were punched, not by Mike Tyson, but by a lightweight,’ he says.

As Rivellino, Pelé and Jairzinho laid the foundation for a memorable opening win, Piazza felt the nervousness lift. He admits it never returned to haunt him again during the campaign. ‘I was scared because I was so relaxed,’ he smiles. Such composure was a rare commodity in a team that reflected the breadth of Brazil’s colourful, regional character. ‘The Carioca is more extroverted, he thinks he is the best, he jokes more,’ explains Piazza. ‘The Paulista is more hard-working, more conscious about being professional, maybe because in the big city people don’t have time to complain, it’s only work, work, work. The Mineiro is shy, more hospitable, communicative, they listen more.’

There were moments when the mild-mannered Mineiro influence of Pelé – a son of Minas by dint of his birth in Três Coraçoes – Tostao and himself saved the side from over-confidence, he believes. In the immediate aftermath of the opening 4–1 win the atmosphere in the dressing room had been euphoric. As far as some of the players were concerned, the Cup was as good as in Carlos Alberto’s hands. It was Pelé who moored the more excitable temperaments with a little Mineiro wisdom.

‘Pelé clapped his hands and made a short speech. He said: “It was good, but we must improve”. Then he sat beside me. He knew what kind of person I was. He told me: “Piazza, if we don’t say this there will be guys who will think that we are already champions”.’ Like his fellow Mineiro, Piazza knew there was no smoke until they saw the fire. ‘It was Mineiro precaution. He was saying, take care.’

If England exposed any defensive deficiencies in Piazza’s game, they centred not on his lack of height but his lack of a grounding in the game’s black arts. He would never claim to have been an angel. If his memory serves him, he was sent off five times, but always for complaining to referees. As far as he is concerned, his nickname says everything about the way he played. The man was never the ball thief’s target. ‘I did not kick people,’ he says simply.

In the aftermath of Lee’s kick on Félix, Piazza had been asked to exact retribution. ‘Carlos Alberto said: “We must stop this guy”. I told him: “I’m not going to do anything”.’ Piazza had his own welfare in mind. ‘I knew that if I did I would be punished because I never knew how to kick anybody. If you don’t know how to do something and you try, it becomes ridiculous.’ Carlos Alberto was left to mete out justice instead.

Piazza says he enjoyed the England match more than any other. ‘I like a game that demands attention all the time,’ he says. When I suggest he left the pitch that day with his first sweat-drenched shirt of the tournament he smiles. ‘Yes, it was a good game.’

Piazza reverted to his old midfield role against Rumania. ‘I played in Clodoaldo’s position, Fontana replaced me as a fourth zagueiro,’ he says. His energetic intelligence shone through as he linked well with his clubmate Tostao and Paulo Cézar. The win deepened his confidence that even without their stars, Brazil were a force to be reckoned with. ‘You cannot be restricted to eleven players. You must have a well-formed group,’ he explains. ‘We won without Gérson and Rivellino. That was important.’

Piazza shared a room with his Cruzeiro team-mate Tostao. The two men were friends at Cruzeiro and socialized with their wives, Margot and Vania. ‘Our friendship went beyond the four lines of the pitch,’ he says. If Piazza had always been an unusually talkative Mineiro, Tostao had not. He preferred not to talk too long to friends as well as strangers. Piazza knew his friend well enough to cope with the silences. ‘Sometimes I spoke to the walls,’ he smiles. ‘Or I went to other rooms. But I was used to Tostao.’

The press offered another alternative, of course. Piazza was among the older, wiser heads free to talk to the journalists allowed into the Suites Caribes. With Gérson and Carlos Alberto he presented a defiant voice. ‘We cannot repeat 1966,’ he had said in one interview. ‘The Brazilian people do not deserve that again, despite the fact that they didn’t support us. The people do not deserve defeat.’

Like every other player, he concedes they came closest to defeat against the old enemy Uruguay. Of all the Brazilian side, Piazza was the most painfully aware of the brutality he was about to face in the semi-final. He recalls, to the day, his introduction to the Uruguayan school of macho football. ‘The twelth of June 1968, that is when I broke my leg at the Maracana playing against Uruguay,’ he says. ‘I admire Uruguay, besides they are bold, brave. If they want to fight with you they fight in your home, in their home. Their game is not like the Argentinian, that is more like Brazil, more technique; Uruguay use more force.’
He admits that he – and his side – played badly in the first half. Like Félix, he is still not willing to take the blame for the blunder that induced 110 million missed heartbeats. He says it was a mistake by Brito that forced him out wide to cover Cubilla. He did not dive in with a tackle because he was sure he could force the attacker further away from the goal by staying on his feet. Like Félix he wishes Cubilla had connected cleanly. ‘It was a bad shot,’ he says. When he hears Félix’s explanation about the pitch markings, he cannot but arch an eyebrow and smile: ‘I thought the pitch was perfect.’

Returning to his boxing analogy, he nods when I ask him whether Cubilla’s goal was the closest thing Brazil encountered to a Mike Tyson punch. ‘Yes,’ he says. Yet by the time the team had dragged itself back from the edge of disaster and triumphed, Piazza’s inner confidence had reached its zenith. ‘When we won that game against Uruguay, I lay in bed that night and thought “We are the champions”,’ he says simply.

Tostao, who filled this role so effectively in the 1970 World Cup

Name: Eduardo Goncalvez de Andrade

Born: January 25, 1947, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais

First Professional Club: America (Belo Horizonte)

Tostao: The Little Coin

Eduardo Goncalvez de Andrade was born in Belo Horizonte on 25 January 1947.

‘Aquarius,’ he smiles as he pours coffee from the silver pot his empregada, or housemaid, has placed on the table for him. ‘I am a very rational person, I analyse things and come to rational conclusions. At the same time I am a critical person, ironic, very quiet, introverted. I speak a little but I don’t keep quiet,’ he sums up with a sagacious nod.

Eduardo’s family was middle class, his father worked in a bank in Belo Horizonte and played amateur football for one of the city’s clubs, América. He passed on his love to all four Gonçalvez brothers. ‘I grew up in a passionate football atmosphere,’ recalls Eduardo.

Eduardo was the shortest of the brothers, but even as a seven-year-old he stood out. Soon he had been christened Tostao, the little coin. Unlike Pelé, he must have liked the name. There are no stories of psychological wounds, only an apologetic smile. ‘I can’t remember when and why it started.’

By the time he was fourteen, Tostao was playing junior football for Cruzeiro. By the age of sixteen he had signed professional terms at América – his father was no longer on the books. As he passed through his apprenticeship Tosta^·o found time to keep his head in his books. ‘I had cultural notions, I liked to read, I liked to study,’ he says.

At eighteen, marked out as what he calls a grande promessa, Tostao had to choose the direction his life was to take. Until then his opinion of football as a profession had been characteristically white-collar. ‘Football was like a paid entertainment,’ he says. Blessed with intelligence and a sense of his own God-given ability, he opted to leave his studies, at least for a few years. ‘It was worthwhile because I had everything to be a great player. I was aware that it would be for a short time and my future life would be different,’ he says.

A natural goalscoring centre-forward, Tostao quickly emerged as the great meteor of the Brazilian game. His intelligence and all-round ability was soon winning him comparisons with Pelé. In 1966 he was called up to the Brazilian squad as the King’s prince in waiting. At nineteen, he was little over half the age of some of Feola’s veteran squad.

He made his World Cup debut as replacement for Pelé in the Hungary match. His baptism was memorable for the explosive left-footshot he fired past the Hungarian keeper Gelei, but eminently forgettable in every other sense. He grimaces at the memory of the humiliations that followed. Tostao lays the blame on the lack of organization and basic physical fitness.
‘From the group of 1958 and 1962, the only one who was in condition to play was Pelé. Djalma Santos, Gilmar, Bellini, Orlando, Garrincha, no,’ he says, shaking his head. Tostao had heard the stories about Garrincha’s alcoholism but still found his disconnection from reality hard to believe. ‘They said that Garrincha didn’t even know who the opponents were in the Final in 1958. In England Garrincha was in no condition at all and played.’

He left England regretting that Feola had failed to listen to those, himself included, who believed that rather than being his understudy, he should be Pelé’s partner. It had been in a warm-up match in Sweden on the way to England that Tostao had sensed he had found a kindred spirit. ‘It was a friendly game and we understood each other immediately,’ he says. ‘He needed a more intelligent player at his side, a player that understood where he was going to be.’

It is perhaps his greatest footballing regret that they didn’t play together more frequently. ‘Today the Brazilian squad meets every month. In my time it was not like that, we played two or three games a year. If I had had the opportunity to play in the same team as him, our partnership would have been richer.’ It was not only Tostao’s loss, it was the world’s too.

Tostao’s journey to Mexico was at times unbearably eventful. He was the unquestioned hero of Brazil’s qualification campaign under Saldanha. His all-round contribution was as profound as it would be in the finals. During the team’s travels around South America and back in the Maracana in August 1969, however, it was his phenomenal goalscoring ability that set his countrymen’s hearts racing.

He had forced his way into Saldanha’s side with his display against England in June that year. Ramsey’s men arrived from Mexico with an unbeaten tour record and a quiet confidence that they could strike an early psychological blow against the side already being trumpeted as their most serious rival the following summer. Brazil emerged with the mental edge, after a convincing 2–1 win in which Tostao scored a spectacular winner.

As the ball had broken loose in the English defence, Tostao seemed to pose no threat as he lay prostrate on the pitch. Seeing the ball moving towards him, however, he levered his lower body off the grass with his arms and executed a mid-air scissor-kick that sent the ball crashing home. Back on Fleet Street, photographs of Tostao levitating himself to manufacture a barely believable goalscoring shot was used as chilling evidence of Brazil’s rediscovered divinity.

Years later Tostao was shown copies of the back-page eulogies he received. ‘The people didn’t understand how I scored that goal,’ he says, a boyish smile breaking across his face. The goal proved a portent of things to come that summer.

From the moment he pounced on the Colombian keeper Lagarcha’s parry of a Pelé free kick in the thiry-ninth minute of the opening elimanatoria match in Bogotá, Tostao was in the most lethal form of his international career. He scored the second in the 2–0 win in Bogotá and four days later broke the deadlock against the Venezuelans in Caracas. Tostao left the defenders Chico and Freddy floundering before finishing with a cool shot, thirteen minutes from time. In the remaining quarter of an hour he and Pelé ran riot, first Tostao setting up his partner for the second then scoring the third and fourth goals himself.

His form continued back at the Maracana. He scored two more in the 6–2 win over Colombia but saved his finishing masterclass for the decisive win over Venezuela on 24 August. His hat trick within 24 minutes took his tally to ten in four matches and his team to Mexico. Pelé scored the only goal in the final match against Paraguay. By the end of the month the duo had scored fourteen goals in five games between them.

Tostao’s free-scoring performances won him the headlines normally reserved for Pelé. In Europe, where he had only flickered in 1966, the White Pelé became the symbol of the new, revitalized Brazil. Soon he would symbolize the fragility of his nation’s confidence instead.

Tostao’s career – and so his life – was transformed during a Corinthians v. Cruizeiro match in late September 1969. In a freak accident he was hit in the face by a ball from Corinthians full-back Ditao. Such was the force of the impact he could not see afterwards. In hospital he was diagnosed as having suffered a detached retina.

Drawing on his own connections, Tostao engaged one of Belo Horizonte’s most eminent medical figures, Dr Robert Abdalla Moura. On 3 October all Brazil held its breath as Tosta^·o and Dr Moura flew to Houston to undergo potentially risky surgery to the eye. Moura performed the operation himself at the Santa Monica Ophthalmology Center in Houston and returned to Brazil to pronounce himself pleased with the results.

The following months were agonizing for Tostao. In April 1970, on the Friday before he was due to make his comeback against Paraguay in the penultimate warm-up, Tosta^·o woke up in bed in Belo Horizonte with blood streaming from his left eye. At first his bad luck looked like Dario’s good fortune. Instead the game ended a goalless draw and both teams were jeered off the pitch. It proved the last time the President’s favourite wore the No. 9 shirt and reminded Zagalo how priceless Tostao was to his side.

At first Zagalo had to be convinced of Tostao’s importance to the campaign. ‘When Zagalo took over he was soon saying that I was a reserve to Pelé. Up front he said he needed a player of speed,’ Tostao explains. As the manager watched the team at work in practice in the warm-up matches and began to switch Saldanha’s 4–2–4 formation to a more flexible 4–3–3, however, Tostao’s importance to the side became clear.

Like Rivellino, Piazza and Jairzinho, Tostao was asked to adapt his natural game to fit into the plan. His sacrifice was, perhaps, the greatest of all. Zagalo asked Tostao to suppress his predatory instincts and act as a sophisticated target man instead. He would spend much of the Mexican campaign with his back to goal, flicking and stroking off a range of simple and subtle passes to Jairzinho and Rivellino, Pelé and Gérson. ‘They needed somebody to organize the game up front. I was the pawn,’ he smiles.

Yet when he joined the squad at Guanajuato, there were those – Pelé included – who doubted whether he was physically and mentally up to the challenge ahead. Their fears were understandable. Tostao cut a sensitive, secretive figure at the training pitches. Back in Brazil even President Médici had been expressing his public concern at his fitness. At the sight of a quote-hungry journalist he would hold up his hands and plead ‘Please don’t ask me about my eye’. Within the camp his insecurity became unsettling. Publicly Pelé expressed confidence that his friend would pull through. Privately he harboured serious doubts. What else was he to think when he saw Tostao unwilling to head a ball in training? ‘They were a little bit apprehensive, scared that I was not well,’ he nods, pouring some more coffee as he speaks.

Two weeks before the first match he suffered an attack of conjunctivitis. As Dr Abdalla spent a day examining him he offered to withdraw so Zagalo could draft in a replacement. ‘I said: “If you are not confident that I can play you should fire me and I would understand”.’

Tostao’s friendship with Piazza allowed him his peace and quiet in their room. While Piazza made himself scarce, Tostao would spend hours dismantling and studying a large, plastic medical school model of an eye he had been given by Dr Abdalla. The model helped him overcome his fear. ‘We are only frightened when we don’t know what we are suffering from. I know my problem very well,’ he told reporters philosophically at the time. Dr Abdalla remained in Guadalajara and, with Tostao’s parents, was a frequent visitor to the Suites Caribes.

As his strength and confidence returned, his patience with the press had seemed to mirror his renewed determination. ‘If I give up now, I will never play football again and I will never feel self-confident any more. I cannot give up. Am I a man or a mouse?’ he had said, a new defiance in his voice.

Tostao had been the team’s touchstone the previous August. Not a man for idle boasting, when he began to talk of Brazil winning his confidence spread through the camp. Even today he can recall the calm certainty he felt in the final days before the opening match. ‘It is not something I can explain, it is something deep inside. I am a very intuitive man. I always have a feeling when something good or bad is going to happen and rarely am I wrong.’

Despite the traumas of the preceding months, Tostao fulfilled all his potential in Mexico. He was perhaps the most consistent of all the team. Yet when he puts his own performances in the World Cup under the microscope, his hypercritical mind finds them wanting. As far as he is concerned he made three ‘great moves’ in the tournament. ‘If I left those three moves out I would say I played badly – sincerely.’

He scored two goals against Peru – the first an impudent shot inside Rubinos’ near post, the second a scooped shot high into the netting from a dangerous cross-cum-shot by Pelé. Yet he discounts them both. ‘The two goals I scored were two simple goals, nothing exceptional,’ he says. ‘The rest of my contribution was important tactically, very important without doubt, as a pawn.’

Watch Tostao score against Peru in Mexico 1970

He admits the first, the ‘nutmeg’ of Bobby Moore which led to Jairzinho’s goal against England, owed as much to panic as premeditation. He had seen Zagalo warming up his replacement Roberto on the touchline and realized he would have to pull out something special just to remain on the pitch.

‘Without doubt it was the most difficult match because England annulled Brazil’s moves. Tactically England were perfect, it became a chess match,’ he says. ‘Roberto was warming up. I thought “He’ll replace me so I must do something now”.’

He had already had a shot deflected when he picked up the ball again on the left. His twisting, turning run took him through Moore’s legs and away again. His back was turned to the goal, yet his swivelled cross travelled deep into the crowded English area and straight to the feet of Pelé. Pelé sucked in the defence before unloading the decisive pass to Jairzinho. Even the telepathic twosome had never managed quite such a psychic connection. In the elation that followed Jairzinho’s goal, however, Tostao was still substituted. ‘They had signed the papers, before the goal,’ he smiles. ‘But there is no doubt the substitution was a stimulus for me to try something different.’

He is far prouder of his crucial contributions in setting up Clodoaldo and Jairzinho’s goals in the semi-final against Uruguay. Amid the fireworks of Pelé and Rivellino, Gérson and Jairzinho, the moments are hardly ones that blaze away in the memory. Both were perfectly weighted, inch-accurate through balls rather than moments of extemporized goalscoring. That he should choose these two moments above all others is perhaps the ultimate testimony to his philosophy as a footballer. For Tostao both were triumphs of substance over style.

‘Clodoaldo ran and shouted to receive the ball in front of him. I was able to wait a few seconds so he could arrive in the right position,’ he says of the first. For the second he had to place a ball in a tiny two-metre space between the advancing Jairzinho and a retreating defender. ‘I was very conscious that if I gave the pass in front of the defender he would arrive first. So I gave the pass in front of Jair and behind the defender. When Jair controlled it the defender tried to turn, lost control and Jair went on and scored,’ he says.
‘I’m more proud about them than the move against England because there it was completely emotional. In the two against Uruguay I had the clear sensation of the consciousness of the move.’

Given the dramas that had befallen him en route to Mexico City, the sensitive Tostao found the Final almost too much to bear. He had been a restless sleeper throughout his career. ‘When journalists asked me how I was before an important game, I would say “I’m very well, confident”,’ he smiles. ‘The truth was I was extremely tense, I didn’t sleep well because I was preoccupied, thinking.’ He admits he barely slept during the stormy night of 20 June.

Tostao’s respect for Gérson was enormous. ‘Carlos Alberto was the captain, the great leader was Gérson,’ says Tostao. Of all the side, he was the player in whom he felt he could confide. ‘I liked him very much. We would sit up until three or four o’clock in the morning talking,’ he says. The two men sat up late on the night before the Final, each calming the other’s nerves.

The Final represented Tostao’s ultimate sacrifice. He had been involved in the discussions about how to turn Italy’s man-marking system to Brazil’s advantage. ‘It was the most clear example of the group working together,’ he says. As well as the ruse to draw Facchetti out of position, Zagalo and his team sensed that Tostao’s ability off the ball might be able to create precious space for his midfield colleagues too.

‘We agreed that I would play far in front. I would not go back to receive the ball, I should stay with the spare defender, obliging him to stay with me.’ The plan worked perfectly during the opening phase of the match as Rosato played the unwitting consigliere to his Godfather, shadowing his master’s every move. As Tosta^·o buzzed around amongst the back three, Rivellino and Gérson duly discovered the Azteca opening up to them. ‘If Rivellino had been on top of his game he would have scored at least two goals from outside the area. I think he put five shots over the bar,’ Tostao says with a rueful smile.

The Platonic principles at work within the side had borne remarkable fruit on the way to the Azteca. But perhaps nothing summed up the collective spirit better than Tostao’s supremely selfless contribution to the Final. His intelligent runs off the ball kept Rosato and the Italian defence guessing all afternoon. ‘My pleasure was to play with the ball but against Italy I was playing without the ball,’ he says.

Tostao even appeared in the penalty area to clear the lines at one moment of danger in the second half. We also tend to forget that the famous Carlos Alberto move was begun when Tostao, running himself into the ground in the dying minutes, dispossessed an Italian deep in his own half.

All of us who witnessed it remember the Final for the beauty of that closing phase of play. Gérson and Jairzinho’s goals paved the way for a flourish that embodied all the qualities that had made the Brazilians the most admired and loved side in the history of the tournament. Tosta^·o’s memories too are dominated by the sheer emotion of its climax. After Jairzinho scored the third goal and he knew the game was safe he admits he could contain his feelings no longer. As the sun poked through, the pitch had begun to dry. Tosta^·o’s tears were soon dampening the lush Azteca once more. ‘I played the last fifteen minutes crying,’ he confesses, wiping the moisture from his eyes as he speaks.

When the final whistle went Tostao became, with Pelé, the focus of the crowd’s adulation. The two had turned to each other and embraced. As others ran for cover they were swamped by the throng. Tostao’s initial joy soon gave way to fear as Brazilian and Mexican fans ripped his boots, shirt, shorts and socks off him. ‘I was in the middle of the pitch. At first it was huge emotion but then I realized I only had my underwear on,’ he says. ‘I was in panic, the Mexican police rescued me.’ He was delivered to a dressing room convulsed by a crise de choro, ‘a crisis of tears’. It was only hours later that he began to absorb the full impact of what had happened.

With Pelé and the rest he had gone out to the official party at the Hotel Isabel Maria on the Reforma in the centre of Mexico City. Once more the players found themselves besieged by elated Brazilian and Mexican fans and had to virtually fight their way into the party. The popular Brazilian singer Wilson Simonal had been hired to sing. Carlos Alberto led the dancing as the party went on until 1 a.m. on the Monday morning. Pelé, Carlos Alberto and Zagalo were among those who were summoned at one point to talk to President Médici on the telephone. All three struggled to hear a word he was saying.

Tostao stayed only briefly, however. He slipped out without a word and headed back to his room at the hotel. ‘I am a reclusive person. I wanted to be alone in my room,’ he says simply.

Tostao gave his medal and his No. 9 shirt to Dr Abdalla as a mark of thanks. As he returned to Brazil a national hero, his beloved solitude – and peace of mind – were commodities he would find increasingly hard to come by.

Gato Felix

Name: Felix Milalli Venerando

Born: December 24, 1937, Mooca, Sao Paulo

First Professional Club: Portuguesa


Felix was born on Christmas Eve 1937, in the Italian-dominated Mooca area of Sao Paulo, the second of five children. His father worked as an engineer in a nylon stocking factory called Mussolini but it was his mother who dictated affairs at home.

A stern, strict woman, she – like most of the team’s mothers as it turns out – disapproved of Félix playing football. ‘She was against it,’ he says, shooting a plume of smoke skyward as we sit and talk in an office high above the workshop floor. ‘My mother never wanted me to play football.’ For Félix, however, there was no passion to compete with it. ‘I think it is in the Brazilian blood, every boy sleeps with a football under his pillow.’ It was while his son – and his wife – slept that Félix’s father surreptitiously helped his son fulfil his dreams. He would leave home for work at 5.30 a.m. with his son’s chuteira, football boots, hidden in his work bag. Félix would collect the boots from the Mussolini factory which was on his way to school. ‘It was our secret,’ he says with a conspiratorial smile.

Like every Brazilian boy he wanted to emulate Friedenreich and Leônidas, the great goalscoring heroes of the 1930s and 40s. ‘I was a centre-forward,’ he says. His courageousness – or perhaps emerging craziness – in throwing himself around on the streets soon marked him out as a promising goalkeeper, however.


Any disappointment he might have had at discovering his best position was at the non-glory end was relatively short-lived. ‘Here in Brazil if a player is no good playing in front, he’ll be a goalkeeper. But not in my case. I started playing in goal because generally nobody wanted to play there and I was very courageous. We played on the streets and I would dive on the pavements,’ he says, with an unsettling wink. ‘I started to like it.’

His deception of his mother continued even after he found a place in a junior side at the Clube Atletico Juventus, at their ground on the Rua Javari. Félix had found a post as an office boy in the dispatch department of a large company, Maquinas Piratininga, and had convinced his mother he was on the road to a career in accountancy. As it turned out, double-entry book-keeping was his route to a career in professional goalkeeping.

By now Santos had expressed their interest in having him join as a juvenil goalkeeper and he had begun to leave work early to travel to their ground an hour or so away. The great Gilmar, like Félix a product of Juventus, was already at the famous Vila Belmiro stadium on the coast. The director whose permission Félix would seek to leave work early also happened to be a director of Portuguesa. ‘He asked me: “Why am I setting you free to train for Santos? If you are good go to Portuguesa”.’ Félix showed the Portuguesa goalkeeping coach Valdinho de Morais what he could do. While Santos were away in Argentina, Sao Paulo’s then leading club snapped him up instead.


Félix’s role models were keepers like the star of Sao Paulo football, Oberlan Tacame of Palmeiras. ‘He was a phenomenon, a legend,’ he says. At Portuguesa he was groomed by Morais, who was one of the best goalkeeping coaches of his time. With his spindly legs and slight build, Félix hardly filled the goalmouth with a domineering presence. His nickname at Portuguesa was papel, paper.‘Because I was so thin.’

Yet he refused his coach’s advice to take up weight-training to bulk himself up. ‘I would have become a robot,’ he says. ‘I was always against body-building, except maybe a little bit for the legs, for the power to propel.’

His rail-thin frame wrapped in the red and green hoops of Portuguesa, Félix cut one of the more colourful figures in Sa^·o Paulo football. What he lacked in physical presence he more than made up for in bravery. At times his courage bordered on the reckless and he suffered a succession of injuries. He was also the most voluble goalkeeper in Brazil, often walking off the pitch hoarse from his efforts to be heard above the huge crowds at Sao Paulo’s great stadia, Pacaembu and Morumbi.

One way and another, Félix could not fail to catch the eye and by 1965 Aimore Moreira had drafted him into his vast squad for England. Félix played in a Brazilian XI against Hungary at Pacaembu. After a faultless display in what would prove a false dawn, 5–0 win he was hopeful of a place in Moreira’s final 22 for England.


When he relegated Félix to the azulona squad, ‘the unlucky ones’, Moreira may actually have been doing his career a favour. Both Gilmar and the second-string keeper, Manga, returned to Brazil in disgrace. Gilmar soon announced his retirement, Manga left for Nacional in Uruguay and Félix quickly emerged as the new No. 1 in a new-look Brazilian squad.

Félix was Saldanha’s first choice in all the eliminators and he had, by common consent, done well enough, keeping clean sheets against Paraguay, Venezuela and Colombia in the away matches. But when the quixotic coach returned from Europe, obsessed with the idea that his team was about to suffer something akin to the Luftwaffe’s assault on 1940s London, he dropped Félix for the bulkier, younger Leao of Palmeiras.

Félix fumbles for a new cigarette before he can bring himself to speak of Saldanha. ‘Saldanha alleged that I was thin, that I had no strong body, that I could not bear the shock of those big guys,’ he says, flicking fiercely at his lighter. ‘I was always courageous, I would dive at people’s feet. I had broken fingers, a broken jaw, I had fractured three or four ribs. If I was scared of crashing into these guys I would not have been in goal.’ Félix extends his right hand. One of his fingers is crooked grotesquely, a permanent reminder of his willingness to take the heaviest hits.

To be fair, some of the coach’s excuses did verge on the ludicrous. ‘Saldanha said it was the rainy season in Mexico and I would not know how to play with gloves,’ he says, arching an eyebrow. Félix made a point of playing in the Final with gloves.

When Saldanha finally tilted at one windmill too many, no one, not even Pelé, was happier to see Zagalo taking up the reins. ‘It was excellent for me,’ chuckles Félix. Zagalo reversed Saldanha’s decision, restoring Félix and dropping Leao from the squad. The younger keeper never forgave his replacement. On his final day with the squad, Leao threw a prima donna-ish tantrum effectively accusing Félix of being Zagalo’s puppet. ‘He left crying,’ says Félix, seeming to suggest that Leao may be from the less barmy branch of the goalkeeping union.

Félix still recalls the moment when Leao was later called back to the squad and to camp Guanajuato. ‘Zagalo asked my opinion and I said: “Call that boy”. The place was a castle, the door creaked and Leao came in. I said: “Congratulations”. He said: “Justice has been done!”.’ Félix shrugs. ‘I’m not the kind of person to keep rancour; I think he is.’
In the run up to the first match, a poll of Brazilian football fans gave Félix a resounding vote of confidence by naming him their number one No. 1. He put the fact that 92 per cent thought all three of the squad’s options inferior to Gilmar to the back of his mind.

At the age of thirty-three, Félix was comfortably the senior member of the squad in Mexico. ‘I was the ancient one,’ he says with evident pride. He roomed with the youngest player, the teenage Marco Antonio, his team-mate at Fluminense, where he had moved by now. With the squad’s other senior professionals, Gérson, Piazza, Brito and Carlos Alberto, Félix served on a five-man players’ committee that would represent the squad’s cause in meetings with Havelange, Zagalo and the men of the CBD. The quintet kept the younger players in line. Their message was clear: ‘You may have another chance but we may not.’ ‘We were a little bit older, we knew we would not play in the next World Cup,’ he says. ‘We said to each other. “Let’s see if we can finish our career in a good way”.’

If he was a father figure, he was also – with Brito – one of the squad’s two jesters-in-chief. Félix’s off-beam humour was no respecter of reputations. Everyone had to have a nickname. Brito was cavalo, the horse, Rivellino orelha, big ears. Piazza was PePe, Clodoaldo, corro, his nickname at Santos. Jairzinho, J. J. or furacao. Carlos Alberto was simply capita^·o. Pelé was far happier being called criola or negrao, neither of which needs translation, than he was being called, as Brito sometimes did, o rei, the king. ‘He was a simple man and he didn’t like that,’ says Félix.

Tostao arrived at Guanajuato, sensitive, nervous and insular, after a major eye operation. His parents had even followed him to Mexico, worried at his state of mind. Félix’s idea of a welcome was to provide him with his freshly minted, Mexican monicker. He took one look at Tostao, still badly marked from his surgery, and knew instantly what to say. ‘Cheer up egg-face,’ he laughs. He shoots me another one of his looks. ‘I thought it might brighten his mood a little.’

The intellectual Tostao may have found it hard to appreciate, but there was method in Félix’s peculiar brand of madness. The more positive and optimistic the atmosphere inside their fortress, the less the squad would worry about the ugly mood of pessimism swilling around back in Rio, Sa^·o Paulo and the rest of Brazil.

Brazil claims much that is unique in its football. The extraordinary fickleness of its fans and its press in particular is one of its unsung traits, however. The vast majority of the Brazilian media was convinced its squad was too weak in defence to mount a serious assault on the Europeans – England, Italy, Germany and Czechoslovakia in particular. ‘It is easier to find a giraffe than an optimist,’ mused the poet and football fanatic Nelson Rodriguez at the time. No one took more flak than Félix. ‘I was the most criticized player in the team,’ he says defiantly. ‘It was unfair but I’m the kind of guy who can swallow it.’

Gerson de Oliveira Nunes

Name: Gerson de Oliveira Nunes

Born: January 11, 1941, Rio

First Professional Club: Flamengo


Watch Gerson In Action


Gerson with the Brazil squad in 1970, second from left front row.

At junior school in the southern Brazilian city of Niteroi, the young Gérson de Oliveira Nunes was known as papagaio, the parrot. A lean, rugged, square-shouldered boy, he was never short of an opinion, particularly on the football pitch where he already cut a confident and commanding figure. The fact that his words could never match the eloquence of the sublime left foot he possessed did little to quieten him. The reputation for rampant verbosity remained with him throughout sixteen years as a professional with Flamengo, Botafogo, Sao Paulo and finally Fluminense. So too did the nickname.

He was born on 11 January 1941, to a family with football in its veins. His father Clovis Nunes and his uncle were both professionals in Rio. The legendary Zizinho, with Ademir and Jair part of the free-scoring Brazilian forward line of 1950, was a close friend of his father’s and a familiar face at the Nunes household. When the teenage Gérson announced his intention of becoming a footballer too, he found few obstacles put in his way. ‘I did not have lots of problems in that respect,’ he smiles.

As a boy his heroes had been Zizinho and Danilo and Jair. At his first club, Flamengo, across Guanabara Bay in Rio, however, he found himself cast in the same mould as the most influential midfield player of Brazil’s first gilded age, Didi. The young Gérson combined speed and ferocious shooting power with the intelligence and ability to control a game from the midfield, the meio de campo. One of his greatest assets was his ability to switch defence into attack with one long, laser-like pass – or lançamento – from deep in his own half. Soon he was being talked of as a successor to Didi.

Even in adolescence, Gérson resisted the comparison. He was his own man, the original Gérson not the next Didi, although he admits he had an affinity with him. ‘His style of play was very similar to mine,’ he nods. The suggestion that he modelled himself on him meets with a pursing of the lips and a stern, shrugged ‘No’.

Gérson’s first five years in the game represented an almost seamless rise through the ranks. Within a year of making his professional debut for Flamengo in 1958, he was in the Brazilian ‘amateur’ team in the Pan-American Games. A year later he was a lynchpin of the side at the Rome Olympics. By 1961, with Didi in decline, he was the playmaker at Flamengo and had starred in the Brazilian side that won the inter-South American competition, the Oswaldo Cruz Cup. He had also been recruited into the full national squad to defend the World Cup in Chile by the new national coach Aimore Moreira.

By now Gérson had made the short journey from Flamengo to Botafogo, also in Rio, home to the most natural talent of all, his boyhood idol Garrincha. His dreams of combining with the bandy-legged ‘Little Bird’, along with Pelé and Didi, in Chile were dashed when he suffered a serious knee injury. Forced to undergo surgery, he couldn’t get himself back into Moreira’s squad. It would be one of many injuries to blight his career.

Gérson arrived at Mexico with much work to do. He was twenty-nine, approaching the end of a career that had somehow failed to fulfil its early, infinite promise. Even more than for Pelé, 1970 had represented his last realistic chance to stamp his greatness on the world game.