ASK anyone around the world who the best ever Brazilian to play the game was and they’ll usually say Pele. Head into Brazil though, ask the same question and any self-respecting passionate follower of the beautiful game will tell you all about a bow-legged right-winger who holds a dearer place in their hearts than everyone’s favourite viagra salesman. That man was Garrincha, who was born today in 1933.
When baby Garrincha was born into the world with a left leg that curved outwards and a right leg that was bent inwards it was fair to assume that as a career path, World Cup winning footballer was a long shot, but stories soon circulated about a boy “who lived in the woods with bent legs and who could dribble like the devil.”
And dribble he could. Due to his wonky legs Garrincha was able to dart off in unpredicatable directions and had an almost unnatural turn of pace leading to many describing him as the greatest dribbler ever to grace the world of football. Playing most of his career at Botafo, he soon became Brazil’s most pivitol player, leading them to their first World Cup when Garrincha, alongside a 17-year old Pele lead Brazil to glory in 1958.
Four years later he was the player of the tournament in Chile as Brazil were starting to get in the winning habit, taking the trophy home again. In fact the boys from Brazil never lost a game when Garrincha and Pele played together.
By the mid-60′s Garrincha’s misshapen body was beginning to feel the effects. The cartilage in his knee was being wrecked and this eventually lead to his retirement, which bought about a whole new set of problems. Name a vice and the ‘Little Bird’ as he was known, probably went in for it. Women and booze proved to be his achilles heel, as fathered 13 children (at least) and eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1983.
Whereas his old team-mate Pele made his name a registered trademark and had as big a zeal for making money as he did for playing football, Garrincha’s naivety with money left him in severe financial problems as was tricked into signing blank contracts where directors would pay him minimum wage. During his playing career he lived in a slum, with cash rotting away in cupboards and behind furniture.
Even after his death, stories of his womanising hit the Brazilian news. His biographer Ruy Castro was sued for libel by Garrincha’s family for writing that his penis was 25cm long. The judge took the view that most men would, when he dismissed the case, saying “it should be noted that it is a matter of pride, at least in this country, to have a large member.”
On that bombshell, we’ll say rest in peace Garrincha, and come back tomorrow for more footballers behaving badly.
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