Soccer-Socrates was maestro of Brazil's 1982 team
RIO DE JANEIRO |
RIO DE JANEIRO Dec 4 (Reuters) - Socrates, who died of organ damage at the age of 57 on Sunday, was an elegant midfielder who led one of Brazil's most dazzling soccer teams and stood up to the country's military rulers.
A qualified doctor who drank and smoked liberally, he died after being admitted to hospital for the third time since August because of liver and intestinal problems.
Socrates, who had practised medicine and worked as a soccer pundit since retiring as a player, acknowledged in September that alcohol was the main cause of his disease.
"I was an alcoholic...whoever uses alcohol every day is an alcoholic. I was dependent on alcohol," he said in an interview with television station Globo, adding that he had stopped drinking three months earlier.
The bearded, lanky Socrates, known by his nickname "Magrao" (Big Skinny), was most famous in Brazil for the three Sao Paulo state championships he won with Corinthians in 1979, 1982 and 1983.
Considered one of the club's best-ever players, he also played a high-profile role in protesting against Brazil's military dictators by pioneering democratic management at the popular club.
The player-led management style, which came to be known as Corinthians Democracy, was a deliberate jab at the military rulers in the tense years leading up to Brazil's return to democracy in 1985.
Socrates was seen as the leading player of his generation alongside Zico, his partner in the Brazil midfield.
He stood out with his languid, nonchalant style, particularly when taking penalties -- he did not use a traditional run-up, just a step to the ball which he lifted towards the goal.
In the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Socrates's cultured style and striking appearance made him one of the icons of a team regarded by fans as one of the most artful and excitingly attacking in the soccer-crazy country's history.
The team, which included other big names such as Zico, Falcao and Junior, scored 15 goals in five games at the tournament and symbolised the attacking, samba-style football that Brazil is famed for but has never fully recaptured since.
The team's 3-2 defeat by Italy in the second group phase and Socrates's penalty miss in the 1986 quarter-final loss to France meant Socrates never achieved the same adulation in Brazil as World Cup winners such as strikers Romario and Ronaldo. (Additional reporting by Tatiana Ramil in Sao Paulo and Brian Homewood in Zurich; Editing by Clare Fallon)
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