Garrincha: An illustrated history with 25 rare photographs
A thing of beauty is a joy forever – is a line immortalized by John Keats in Endymion. ‘Beauty’ is an aspect that has caught the imagination of the human race since its evolution, and ‘Sport’ is that which has united humanity since time immemorial. Over the years, perhaps no other sport in this world has been followed as closely and passionately as football. Apparently, it is a simple game comprising 22 players who run across the length and breadth of a rectangular field with a single ball to execute their craft; but beneath all the running rests ‘a canvas’ on which the greatest performers of the sport paint their picture, which is precisely why it is referred to as, ‘The Beautiful Game’. One of those artists was Manuel Francisco dos Santos, popularly known as Garrincha (a little bird). He was a genius, a folk hero, who scripted innumerable beautiful moments on the field, throughout his lifetime, which, unfortunately lasted just 49 years, as he literally drunk himself to death. On his 83rd birth anniversary, we present an extremely rare and vintage collection of 25 photographs for our readers as part of our homage along with few exclusive snaps with his wife Elza Soares.
Manuel Santos was born on October 28, 1933 in Magé, Rio de Janeiro to an alcoholic father and a mother both from very poor backgrounds. His birth defects included – a deformed spine, right leg bent inwards and left leg six centimetres shorter and curving outwards. The last two were reasons for his gait on the football field and hence the nickname Garrincha. Considering all these setbacks, his feats in the field seem even more unreal.
In 1953, after being rejected by several teams because of his abnormal physique, Garrincha was finally selected by Botafogo on the recommendation of Gentil Cardoso, one of the legendary coaches of the time who had coached all the great teams of Rio de Janeiro. He remains to this day, Botafogo’s global symbol of fame. He played 12 seasons with Botafogo winning three state championships, twice becoming the Brazilian Champion Club and managing one intercontinental Championship.
The 1962 World Cup was Garrincha’s moment of vindication. With Pelé injured, he single-handedly led Brazil to glory. After helping Brazil to a crucial win against Spain by providing an unbelievable through pass to Amarildo in the last league match, he ripped apart England and Chile in the knockout stages by scoring 4 goals in two matches. After the semi-finals, a headline in the Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio read: “What planet is Garrincha from?” Despite suffering from high fever, he played in the final on special appeal as he was sent off in the semis and inspired Brazil to their second successive victory in the World Cup.
So was he a better player than Pelé? Could be yes… could be no… difficult to gauge as they played in different positions. There are some who still believe he is better than Pelé and he did not get his due from the world soccer fraternity as Pelé has received. Pelé was a methodical genius, who knew what he was doing. He had a plan for his actions. He knew his stature in world football and fully utilized it. He appeared in commercials, worked hard, considering his poverty stricken background, and became a global sports icon and a multi-millionaire. Garrincha though, just wanted to have fun – both in the field and off it. His passions in life were football, women and alcohol. The reason I am bringing in Pelé in this tribute to Garrincha is that people tend to limit Brazilian football to Pelé and consider him as a benchmark, time and again. With no disrespect to perhaps football’s greatest ever player, I am just honouring Garrincha by saying that he deserves not to live in the shadow of his great contemporary. Such was the impact of Pelé and Garrincha together that Brazil never lost a match when both played together.
FIFA, in their official tribute to Garrincha refers to him as, “The Chaplin of football’ – and that description probably suits him the best. Legendary South American writer, Eduardo Galeano in his book ‘Soccer in Sun and Shadow’ says: “When he was in form, the pitch became a circus. The ball became an obedient animal, and the game became an invitation to party. Garrincha would shield his pet, the ball, and together they would conjure up some wonderful tricks that would have the spectators in stitches. He would hop over her, and she would bounce over him. Then she would hide before he would escape only to find her already running in front of him. Along the way, his pursuers would crash into each other in their attempts to stop him.”
Words: Deepanjan Deb
Photographs: The photographs are not owned by Goalden Times and we do not claim ownership of these images by any means. All the images are sole property of the respective owners. A huge thanks to Inter Leaning, all4footballblog, Blog DNA Santástico, UOL Entretenimento and Donna for the brilliant archive.