He Had A Dream!
The year 1984… people across Brazil were gearing up for staging protests against the military ruler who had been of the affairs on that country for nearly two decades! A noted football player got involved in the Fair Election Now Movement. The Sports Club Corinthians Paulista became the epicentre of Anti-Government Protests at that time, although the Corinthians Democracy Movement had been launched a few years ago. The Brazilians also formed a platform Socrates and Corinthians Democracy.
Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira (February 19, 1954 – December 4, 2011) was the much renowned attacking midfielder – whose medical degree and political awareness, combined with style and quality of his play – had earned him the nickname “Doctor Socrates“. In fact, he had co-founded the Corinthians Democracy Movement, opposing the then-ruling Military Government. He and his teammates protested against the regime’s treatment of footballers, exhibiting solidarity with the wider movement for democratisation, as they used to wear shirts with ‘Democracia’ written on them during matches. Once, Brazilian journalist Juca Kfouri stated: “Socrates took the risk of saying, in front of two million people gathered on the Cathedral Square, that if direct Presidential Elections weren’t accepted by the regime, he’d go play in Italy.“
The Football world still remembers Socrates as a tragic hero! He is one of the better players of the game besides his compatriots Pele, Zico, Maradona of Argentina, and a few others…. Socrates was born in 1954… and, 1955 was the year of accident as far as football was concerned, as Dark Horse Germany had won the FIFA World Cup, defeating favourite Hungary 3-2 in penalty shootout. Ferenc Puskás, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, had to leave the field in tears. Later, Socrates experienced the same.
Brazil sent a strong team to Spain for the 1982 FIFA World Cup. Apart from Socrates, other stalwart players, like Zico and Falcão, were there in the squad. It was a star-studded squad, which was captained by Socrates. For each and every member of the squad, football was life. However, Socrates, wearing the No 8 jersey, stole the limelight as it was his first World Cup and he was leading the squad! The Latin American giant won their Group League matches quite easily. Whenever Socrates received the ball, spectators inside the stadium witnessed the magic created by him with his feet. His height (1.92mt), headband, hairstyle, and beard made him a Style Icon in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the Football God had other ideas. As Brazil were gearing up to face Italy in the Second Round, Paolo Rossi and his teammates prepared a foolproof strategy for the Samba Warriors. Brazil were defeated 2-3, with Rossi scoring all the three goals. Like Puskás, Socrates left Spain empty-handed.
Unlike Pele and Garrincha, Socrates did not experience poverty in his childhood. As his father was a Revenue Supervisor, Socrates used to enjoy a special (social) status. Despite pursuing a Medical Degree from Ireland, he chased his dream of ruling the football ground with his skills! Since 1974, he played for a number of frontline Brazilian clubs and scored 76 goals in 158 matches. After making his international debut in 1979, he played 60 matches for Brazil till 1986, scoring 22 goals. When he was appointed captain of the national side in 1982, Brazil emerged as an unbeatable team with 33 victories in 35 matches! However, the year 1982 changed the landscape and Socrates resigned as Captain at the end of the year. Still, he had to give a lot to the World Football.
A 32-year-old Socrates, along with other members of the Brazilian squad, arrived in Mexico for 1986 FIFA World Cup. In Mexico, he scored twice, starting with a goal against Spain in the Group Stage. He scored another goal in the Round-of-16 4-0 win over Poland, shooting a penalty kick without running. In the next match against France, he tried to convert it in the same fashion… however, his shootout attempt was saved by French custodian Joël Bats. And, the tragic hero left Mexico with tears in his eyes.
The military captured power in Brazil on March 15, 1964. The military ruler banned so many books penned by Liberal-minded authors. Socrates found his father breaking down. He did not forget that moment. So, he decided to join the Anti-Government protests. Once, he said: “In 1964, I saw my father tear many books, because of the coup d’état. I thought that was absurd, because the library (built by his father in their home) was the thing he liked best. That was when I felt that something was not right. But I only understood much later, in college.” After his retirement from football, he resurfaced, this time as an author! In his writings, Socrates strongly criticised the military establishments. Later, he became famous as a Political Philosopher!
Socrates was eager to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches in Brazil. However, his health started to deteriorate on August 19, 2011. The star player was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo with gastrointestinal bleeding secondary to portal hypertension. He was discharged nine days later. Next month, he spent 17 days in hospital with a liver ailment. On December 1, 2011, Socrates was hospitalised again with food poisoning that developed into septic shock and he was put on life support. He passed away on December 4, 2011 at the age of 57. The then President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, paid a rich tribute, saying that Brazil had lost “one of its most cherished sons“. “On the field, with his talent and sophisticated touches, he was a genius. Off the field… he was active politically, concerned with his people and his country,” added Rousseff.
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