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.’


Hercules de Brito Ruas was born on 9 August 1939 in Rio where he seems to have settled in the same poor Vila de Penha suburb as Carlos Alberto.

Brito, then at Vasco da Gama, had travelled to England in 1966 but had spent his trip on the bench, understudying Feola’s ageing back four. Four years later Zagalo had built his defence around his muscular, 6ft 2in, 80 kg frame, by now the rock of the defence at Flamengo.

Brito’s long, powerful physique and unnatural strength made him the butt of many of the Guanajuato jokes. ‘We used to say that man was not descended from monkeys. First Brito was born, then the monkeys and then man,’ Piazza had said.

His humour seems to have been only a little more sophisticated. ‘If you were taking a photograph he would come and insist on taking it for you,’ Piazza told me. ‘It would be developed and then it would be only the legs, from the waist downwards. It was his idea of a joke.’ Clodoaldo had told me how Brito hid false teeth in Mario Americo’s food. ‘He was going to eat and suddenly he was shouting “Oh, my God”.’

Yet for all his reputation for Carioca craziness, Brito had taken his last chance of World Cup glory as seriously as any member of the squad. At the age of thirty, he was clearly in the best physical condition of his life. ‘In the Cooper Tests, he came out as the fittest physically of all of us,’ Rivellino had told me. His preparation paid dividends in a campaign in which he was stretched to the limit.

Brito lacked the calculating calmness of a Bobby Moore or the all-round footballing ability of a Franz Beckenbauer. He was responsible for his share of errors. Blame for Petras’ opening goal for the Czechs, Sotil’s second in the quarter-final against Peru, and, if we are being harsh, Boninsegna’s in the Final, could comfortably be laid at his door.

Yet talking to his colleagues it was clear that his importance to the side was considerable. Brito’s was the most vocal and physical presence in the Brazilian defence. ‘He would call me chefinho, little boss. He would shout “Come on chefinho”,’ Piazza had told me. Even Gérson had called him ‘a lion’ among men.

Perhaps his finest performance came against England. For all the heavy artillery wheeled out against him, Brito held resolute. In the Final too, his strength of personality helped overcome the frequent lapses. No contribution was more important than a wonderful tackle on Boninsegna when Piazza had let him through on goal in the final fifteen minutes. Brito’s intervention effectively snuffed out Italy’s resistance. Soon Clodoaldo was constructing the coup de grace that would end the game in such glorious style.

Brito’s career seems to have taken a slide afterwards, in part because of his age, in part because of his loosening grip on his temper. Zagalo had been at the Maracana during the final match of the 1971 Carioca Championship between his Fluminense and Brito’s Botafogo. Botafogo had only needed a draw to win the title. They were within a minute of holding out for a 0–0 draw when Lula scored a controversial last-minute goal. In front of 142,000 fans Brito protested to the referee that Marco Antonio had pushed his keeper Urbirajara and that he had been offside. When he refused to cancel the goal, Brito laid him out with a haymaking punch.

When Zagalo recalled virtually the entire squad for the Independence Cup tournament in 1972, Brito was the most glaring omission. He retired from the game soon afterwards. Today he oversees the provision of sports facilities for local schoolchildren in Rio.

Reviews of The Beautiful Team by Garry Jenkins

“In hindsight it seems natural that (they) should have arrived in our living room the year after the first moon landing. They were, after Apollo11, the second great event of the new telecultural age.”

Garry Jenkins journey in search of Pelé and the 1970 Brazilians began when he was a 12 year old, living in a small village in West Wales, and dazzled by the images on his television.

The Mexico World Cup was the first to be widely broadcast in colour and multi-racial Brazil, brilliant in gold and blue against the bleached turf, embraced the new palette as if it had been created for them.

World Cup winners define successive epochs in the game and the way it is won. The casual brilliance of the Brazilians was the fullest expression to date of everything that is beautiful about the sport.

Jenkins meets the surviving titans and finds unexpected answers to the questions of how they came to play the way they did and why the world has waited in vain for the Brazilians to show us again the summits that can be reached by 11 men and a football.

Following their progress from ignominious defeat in the 1966 tournament to the legendary dismissal of Italy and the rest of the world four years later, Jenkins vividly recreates the games themselves, but it is the stories from off the pitch that make this a uniquely entertaining portrait.

This thoughtfully crafted work is infinitely richer than the usual, breathless homages to the team. A definitive tribute to the definitive 11. —Alex Hankin