Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


DOCTOR SOCRATES

Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, one of the stars of the 1982 and 1986 Brazilian World Cup teams that dazzled but ultimately disappointed, died at a Sao Paulo hospital of septic shock resulting from an intestinal infection.  He was 57.  His survivors include a wife and six children

Socrates captained the ’82 Brazil side that, needing only a tie to advance, lost a second-round match to Italy, 3-2, in Barcelona to become one of the greatest teams never to win a World Cup.  Socrates scored a brilliant goal in that game, and an even better one in a group-round victory over the Soviet Union.  Among those who exited with him were Zico, Falcao, Serginho, Oscar, Toninho Cerezo and Leandro.

Socrates scored 22 goals in 60 international appearances.  The midfield maestro’s club tally reads 207 goals in 396 matches, 172 of them for Corinthians, for whom he starred from 1978 to 1984.  He later played one season each in the late ’80s for Fiorentina, Flamengo and Santos.

Socrates was a true Renaissance man.  He studied medicine during his playing career and went on to practice in his hometown of Ribeirao Preto.  Politically active, he founded an opposition movement to Brazil’s then-ruling military government, and he became a popular soccer columnist and TV commentator.  At the time of this death, he was working on a novel.  [December 4]

Comment:  The 1983 South American Footballer of the Year and a member of Pele’s FIFA list of the top living players of the 20th century, Socrates is probably best remembered by a younger generation as the older brother of star midfielder Rai, a member of the 1994 World Cup champion Brazil team who was ignominiously deposed as skipper four years later. 

In his time, Socrates was the face of Brazilian style between the post-Mexico ’70 sag and the embrace of the Dunga-style grit and guile that produced world championships in 1994 and 2002.  At 6-foot-4, he thoughtfully surveyed the field from a high perch and would pry open an opposition’s defense with a wide variety of tools, most notably his trademark back-heeled pass.

With Brasil ’14 fast approaching, what’s disappointing is that the hosts, with luck, may win the next World Cup, but they won’t embody The Beautiful Game, they won’t do it with any player as elegant, as thoughtful as Doctor Socrates.

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