The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Garrincha, the legendary Brazilian player who drank himself to death at the age of 49. The BBC’s Jonathan Stevenson has written a piece on the importance of remembering him.
Simply “remembering” him seems like a low bar to set, though, for one of the greatest players and greatest folk heroes the game has ever known. (And surely no one ranks ahead of him on both those lists, except possibly Maradona?) He should be celebrated. But the idea that Garrincha is gradually being “forgotten” seems to be based in the truth. It’s probably simply that dead players are never remembered the way living players are: had Pele been the one to kill himself with drink and had Garrincha lived, we’d very likely think of Garrincha as the best player ever and struggle to remember his tragically flawed Brazilian teammate.
In case your memory needs refreshing, then, this is Garrincha, the angel with the crooked legs, the joy of the people, a player whose absolute lucidity on the pitch (he is probably the best dribbler in football, despite being born with a curved spine and legs of different lengths) was matched by his absolute disarray off it. Spare a thought for him today—raise a glass, if you think it’s appropriate—and be thankful that you live in a world so rich that most people don’t even know his name.
by Brian Phillips · January 20, 2008