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Brazilian legend Socrates dies, aged 57

Former Brazil captain Socrates, who played in the great 1982 Brazilian side which was widely-regarded as the finest team never to win a World Cup, died on Sunday, aged 57.

Socrates was taken to Albert Einstein Hospital late Friday after suffering food poisoning. He went into septic shock, placed on a life support machine but passed way at 0630GMT on Sunday.

Socrates had already been hospitalised twice in August and September this year with bleeding in his digestive tract, and recognised after these incidents that he had problems with alcohol, especially during his playing days.

A report in the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo claimed that Socrates would be buried later on Sunday in a private ceremony in the town of Ribeirao Preto, 300 kilometres outside Sao Paulo, where he began his playing career in 1974 for Botafogo.

The Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) also announced that there would be a minute's silence before all Sunday's matches in honour of 'one of the most brilliant players in the history of the Brazilian national side.'

Brazilian giants Corinthians - for whom he played for six years scoring 172 goals in 297 matches and won three Sao Paulo league titles - paid a fulsome tribute to him.

"His faithful fans bid a sad farewell to the 'skinny one', we can also be thankful for having witnessed one of the best ever footballers. Thanks for the beautiful goals, the graceful touches, the skilful football that only Socrates possessed."

Later Sunday, Corinthians honoured his memory in style by winning their fifth national league championship after a goalless draw against Sao Paulo rivals Palmeiras.

The 'Timao', for whom Socrates played between 1978 and 1984, previously lifted the national title in 1990, 1998, 1999 and 2005.

Before the game, midfielder Alex said there would be no finer way to pay a fitting tribute to Socrates than for the club to get the draw they needed.

"The best way for us to celebrate his memory is the title," said Alex.

"We hope we can lift the title, to win it in the name of Socrates, for the great idol that he is."

Fans held up banners in the stands reading "Doctor Socrates, rest in peace" while a minute's silence was observed before the start.

Another former Corinthians and Brazil star Ronaldo also paid homage.

"The day has begun in sad fashion. Rest in peace Dr. Socrates," tweeted Ronaldo, who unlike Socrates did taste World Cup glory in 2002.

Simon Clifford, who was responsible in 2004 for persuading Socrates to play a game for his amateur Garforth Town team in the north of England, also paid his own tribute.

"Another sad weekend for football with the passing of our friend Socrates, wonderful player & principled man who stood by his values, RIP," tweeted Clifford.

In a recent television interview, Socrates said he had considered alcohol his "companion," adding that its regular use did not affect his performance on the soccer field.

"Alcohol did not affect my career, in part because I never had the physical build to play this game," he recalled.

"Soccer became my profession only when I was already 24," he said. "I was too thin, and when I was young, I did not have the opportunity to prepare myself physically for the sport."

Socrates, who was also a qualified doctor, played in the 1986 World Cup but was not fully fit and is mainly remembered for missing a penalty in the quarter-final defeat by France.

After his time with Corinthians, he had an unhappy sojourn in Italy with Fiorentina (1984-85).

While at Corinthians he was one of the founders of a movement known as Corinthian Democracy, which formed in the 1980s.

Under its principles, all decisions made by football clubs, including the contracting of new players and training schedules, had to be approved by a vote of all members.

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