No, this isn’t about the philosopher. I leave that kind of stuff to our Greek expert, Jeff Siger.
My post of today is about this guy:
Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira.
It’s been my privilege to be introduced to some of the greatest stars Brazilian football ever produced, Pele, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostão, Falcão, Zico, but there was no one quite like Socrates.
We met first on the Lido, in Venice, back in 1983, when he was already a star, and I was still very ignorant about the beautiful game. He was there with a friend of mine. We boarded the same boat to go to the Rialto.
I’d heard of him, of course. In Brazil, Doctor Socrates was already a household name and widely-regarded as one of the greatest midfielders ever to play the game.
He’d been captain of the Brazilian team that played against Italy in the 1982 World Cup, a game of such surpassing skill and spontaneity that no one who saw it will ever forget it.
But I thought Doctor was just a sobriquet.
Not so. That day, in chatting with him, I learned that Socrates actually was a doctor, an orthopedic surgeon. And that he was also a folk singer, an author and a very modest and agreeable man.
Who, surprisingly, didn’t put football first.
The things that concerned him were eliminating poverty and building roads and schools.
And it wasn’t just talk.
In later years, after he retired, he went on to become a political activist. He wrote for newspapers, not only about sport, but also about politics and economics.
Unfortunately, he also became an alcoholic.
The activism was of a kind that could have gotten him killed during the military dictatorship of the 1970’s.
And the alcoholism did kill him.
Take a moment, now, to enjoy the Brazilian Team’s goals in the 1982 World Cup, from the days when Socrates was in his prime:
(C’mon, watch the video. Please! It’s a part of my continuing campaign to generate interest in the sport among you non-football fans. Remember, there’s only a little over two years to go before the event kicks off here in Brazil.)
Socrates died last month at the age of 56, just one day before his old team, Corinthians, won the Brazilian championship for the fifth time.
He was a doctor. He knew what the endless cigarettes and caiprinhas he was so fond of had done to his health.
Nevertheless, on the night he died, he went to a restaurant with a group of friends and overloaded his liver with the same degree of serenity that his namesake displayed when he drank the hemlock.
He was a most extraordinary man.
And Brazil is missing him.
Leighton - Monday