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Seventy nine years ago in the small town of Pau Grande, a district ofÂ Magé, in the state ofÂ Rio de Janeiro one could hear the sound of an infant cry eco through the village as Manoel dos Santos Francisco aka Garrincha or "Little Bird"; with his swaying walk and slim frame resembling a little bird; would announce his arrival into the world. Born on the 28th of October 1933 this "Little Bird" would soon come to be perhaps the most miscalculated player in the entire era of his time which is probably what makes him one of the greatest footballers in history.
Over the years his undoubted success and in contrast his unsightly reputation was seen as both a triumph and a tragedy to his country Brazil. To many he was physically abnormal as one of his legs was shorter than the other, he allegedly lost his virginity to a goat when he was a boy, killed his mother-in-law in a driving accident, tried to commit suicide and fathered 14 illegitimate children; yet still managed to withholding the reputation of a hero.
In his early adolescent years the game of football like many other things was introduced to Garrincha by the British who occupied the village he grew up in. He was 14 at the time and extraordinary in his skill of "dribbling" which would later on go on to be his signature move or style; he loved dribbling with the ball.
Initially, he showed very little interest in the game which was also around the time when Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950. Brazil lost to Uruguay that year and it was amusing to Garrincha that he could not understand as to how or why the people of Brazil were so devastated over losing the game and some would like to assume that he took it upon himself to see what all the fuss was about. Gracing the sport with his talents when he was 14 years old Garrincha never thought that he would ever become a legendary footballer and it never got into his head.
Throughout most of his career he played for the Brazilian club Botafogo, from 1953 to 1965. However, between 1953 and 1965 he also played for the Brazilian national team. Over all, he played 60 games for Brazil, scoring 17 goals alas scoring a total of 283 goals in his entire professional career; and between those times he was responsible for winning the World Cup twice. It is safe to say that his performances in the World Cup turned him into an international football star and a celebrated symbol throughout Brazil and his career made him one of the most treasured footballers in history.
Regardless of his life outside the sport Garrincha expressed the most pure form of love for the game. It was never a career for him---it was just football. He never trained a day in his life; his interest was not money or fame, he did not bother with any external attachments to the game and as time went by "Garrincha was selfish, undisciplined, unpredictable and indisputably brilliant." For example, he had quite the reputation for "having hauled his opponent to his feet, he dribbled past him and ran on. Even in the biggest games of his career, he would nutmeg a player, run past, wait for him to catch up, then nutmeg him again, just for fun."
One could only imagine sitting at the large stadium gazing out at Garrincha as he breaches a commanding and tactful play at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden where he tore up the Soviet Union in the first 180 second of the game which later on went on to be recognized as the greatest three minutes in the history of football. Dribbling through his opponents, sending the defender straight onto the ground, watching Garrincha help him back up and simply pass by the defender scoring directly from a corner kick considering his physical condition and the unimaginable ability to use both feet; sensing his energy and confidence and absorbing the atmosphere as the crowd goes wild would have been a great privilege.
"He stood by the touchline dressed in the familiar black and white stripes of Botafogo Football Club with the ball at his feet, his opponent standing opposite him. In a flash he bolted to his right and with the defender in hot pursuit he started to sprint down the wing. Two or three steps later he ran back. He had jumped over the ball and left it behind. Garrincha stood dead still over the ball for a few seconds and then bolted down the wing again. Once more the defender followed him and once more Garrincha had left the ball exactly where it was... Garrincha stood with the ball at his feet for a second or two and then darted off down the wing once again, this time with the ball. The defender didn't move a muscle."
Brazil won the 1958 and 1962 FIFA World Cups. Garrincha was the top player in the 1962 FIFA World Cup as hisÂ contributionÂ to Brazil winning the World Cup was enormous. Garrincha was the manÂ who provided the perfect backings for his teammates as he did in Sweden in 1958 where both he and Pele were responsible for Brazil becoming World Cup winners and Brazil never seemed to lose when the duo played together. In 1962, he won the World Cup games against England and Chile almost single-handed in the absence of Pele, who was injured.
However, by 1966 it all came to an inevitable end as Garrincha's drinking addiction ruined him and ended his relationship with football. He played his last game for Brazil in Liverpool; they collapsed 3-1 to Hungary. It was his 60th game for Brazil, and the first loss with him in the team. He was desperate to get back in the game as he quotes "I've now just turned 37, but I'm fit and slim and still able to play, if anyone wants me."
"A downward spiral from the status of national icon, to a national outcast"
Garrincha collapsed as he was refused and turned away by everyone and everything. His whole life crumbled around him first with his career, then his relationship with his companion Elza Soares due to physical abuse inflicted upon her under the influence of alcohol. He was helpless.
At the age of 49 he was finally given the opportunity to play, for the name 'Garrincha'; only, that would be the last game he would ever play as he passed away three weeks later. He died of cirrhosis, alone and attached to a drip in the alcoholics' ward of a Rio hospital January 20th, 1983.
Even though he died as a poor man with no recognition for his past, Garrincha's death brought together thousands of fans who wanted to pay their last respects to the beloved hero who will forever remains in the history of Brazilian soccer as one of the greats.
His epitaph reads "Here rests in peace the one who was the Joy of the People - Mané Garrincha" ---the greatest dribbler of the football the world has ever seen.