Never the symbol of health and good living, Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira or simply Socrates, mostly remembered for his performance with Brazil in the 1982 World Cup, passed away this morning in Brazil, at the young age of 57.
Socrates was never one shy of speaking his opinion, during his playing career and afterwards. Regarding football, regarding life, politics, economics and everything there is to comment about. After retiring and becoming a Doctor, Socrates also worked as a commentator and analyst, but never limited his views to sports. His columns during the recent Copa America were flavored with commentaries and ideas regarding social issues in Latin America.
But despite the name and Philosophy, despite the MD, despite his fondness for fast living, which he admitted to, Socrates will always be remembered as a great, intelligent, classy and elegant footballer. He drank heavily and smoked during his playing days as well. That didn’t stop him from being among the best in the world, captain of the best Brazil side never to win a World Cup, part of the historic 1982 World Cup game against Italy, the Paolo Rossi hat-trick and all that.
Zico is probably the biggest name from that side, but Socrates, despite leaving Brazil only once, for one season to play for Fiorentina, was the better, and more loved player. Elegance and pretty much everything resembling “Classic Brazilian Football” in our minds, that was Socrates.
His younger brother, Rai, won the World Cup in 1994 under Zagalo and had a very successful career with Sao Paulo and Paris Saint-Germain. Socrates’ club career began in 1973 with Botafogo, continued with Corinthians, Fiorentina, Flamengo, Santos and again Botafogo, retiring where it all started. In 2004, he made a cameo appearance with Garforth Town that currently play in the Northern Premier League Division One North, the 8th tier of English football.
His numbers – 60 caps with 22 goals for Brazil, playing in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. He won the South American Footballer of the year in 1983 and often regarded as one of the greatest players in history, showing up usually between 50-70th place in top 100 lists.
The news of Socrates passing away comes a week from the tragic news of Gary Speed’s death by suicide.