Brazil's 1982 World Cup
captain Socrates, the 'Golden Heel' renowned as one of the great
playmakers of his generation, died in a hospital on Sunday of
septic shock at the age of 57.
Socrates Brasileiro de Souza Viera de Oliveira, a lifelong
smoker and drinker, had been on a life support system in a Sao
Paulo hospital since Thursday when he was admitted suffering
from food poisoning.
The captain of one of the greatest international sides to
never win the World Cup, Socrates was a medical doctor, an
intellectual, a cultural icon and a political activist who used
his celebrity to fight for the end of Brazil's 1964-1984
"Socrates was a buddy, a great friend, one of those figures
football's going to miss for everything he represented," his
former Brazil team-mate Junior told Reuters by phone from his
Rio de Janeiro home.
"Whoever shared life with him enjoyed the special person he
was, intelligent, cultured, fun, a ball ace. He's the kind of
figure hard to find in football," added the left-back from the
1982 and 1986 Brazil teams.
Socrates had been taken to hospital three times since
August, when he spent nine days there due to a digestive
hemorrhage caused by excessive drinking.
The former attacking midfielder, who played for Brazil at
the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, spent 17 days in the hospital in
September with liver trouble and had been recommended for a
BIG SKINNY ONE
Born on February 19, 1954, in Belem, the largest city of Brazil's
Amazon region, Socrates started out at Botafogo-Ribeirao Preto
where he became their top player while studying at the local
He joined Sao Paulo club Corinthians in 1978 and stayed for
Bearded, thin and popularly known as 'Magrao' or the 'Big
Skinny One', Socrates was part of a golden Brazilian generation
who included midfielder Zico, Junior, Falcao and Eder.
brother Rai, who survives him, went on to play for F.C. Sao
Paulo. Rai was on Brazil's national team who won the World Cup
in the United States in 1994
Corinthians, who won the Brazilian championship for the
fifth time on Sunday, said: "Today, which should be only a day
of joy as the 'Brasileirao' is settled, started sadly for
Brazilian football, mainly for Corinthian [fans].
"[We] say goodbye to 'Magrao' with sadness but we also
remain grateful for the honour of having seen one of the
greatest players in football wearing the white and black shirt
in so many games.
"Thank you for the beautiful goals, touches of genius,
majestic football only Socrates played," the club said in a
statement on their website accompanied
by a picture of Socrates during his playing days.
The Brazilian Football Confederation had announced a
minute's silence would be observed before kick-off at all matches
on Sunday, the final day of the championship. Corinthians'
players raised a single raised fist in salute to Socrates's
An astute passer and reader of the game, Socrates earned his
nickname with a uniquely nonchalant playing style, using the
back-heel to telling effect and scoring memorable goals with both
His languid penalty-taking style, eschewing the traditional
run-up to merely step up and lift the ball into the net,
backfired at the 1986 World Cup where Brazil lost to France in
the quarter-finals on penalties after one of his lazy efforts
Socrates won 60 caps, scored 21 goals and was also known for
his strong views on both football and politics.
Former Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who trained
Socrates with the national team in 1983-84, told Reuters: "He
was the most intellectual of the players I worked with,
intelligent, objective and he had opinions that were his own and
firm about anything and mainly politics.
"He was a genius on the field. He marked a generation with
the technical quality and intelligence of his football... he was
one of the great icons of that  team that marveled the
At Corinthians, during a military government that arrested
and tortured current president Dilma Rousseff, he was a leading
figure in the Democracia Corinthiana movement, winning the love
of the team's mainly working-class fans by promoting an unusual
democratic approach to team management.
Everything was decided by a vote of directors, technical
staff and players. A similar approach to labour relations was
being promoted by unions in the factories of Sao Paulo, South
America's industrial heartland. Their strikes and protests were
often met by the military government with billy clubs, arrests
The team would send messages to the country's government by
taking to the field with banners demanding 'Direct elections
now' or 'I want to vote for President'. While Brazil's military
government ended in 1984, it didn't have direct elections until
One of the main labour protest leaders in Sao Paulo at the
time was a dedicated Corinthians supporter and Socrates fan.
"Dr Socrates was a star on the field and a great friend. He
was a model citizen [and] an example of intelligence and
political consciousness, in addition to his immense talent as a
professional footballer," former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio
Lula da Silva said in a statement.
"Socrates's generous contribution to Corinthians, football
and Brazilian society will never be forgotten. In this moment of
sadness, we offer our solidarity to the doctor's wife, family
and friends," Lula, a lifelong Corinthians fan, said in a
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