7 December 2011

Sócrates, the Great
One of Brazil's most formidable footballers and personal hero of mine, has died.
A real phenomenal guy who transcended his natural flair and great talent on the pitch, and went on to become a beacon for fair-play and justice.
An unlikely athlete, skinny and almost clumsy, famous for his trademark 'back-flip', who left many a gringo looking fool stranded on the green, an unashamedly heavy drinker and smoker, who'd light-up a ciggie at half-time, and to top it all off, a doctor by degree: smart, funny and articulate to the bone, who spoke openly against injustice and actively for democracy.
Humanity could not have designed a cooler sporting hero if it tried to.
The Brazilian world cup squad of 1982, which he captained, is considered by footy connoisseurs, to be our best, surpassing the talent and heights of the classic 1970 squad;
But it's an unfair comparison, for if 1970 was the best 'old skool' team, when the game was still quite slow and players would keep a good mile away from each other, it is the 1982 squad that marks the beginning of modern football as we know it: fast, furious and shameless - It's a turning point, just as the ugly efficiency of muscle building science and the advertising magnets are taking over and turning the sport into the billion-dollar consuming monster that it is today.
Brazil's 82 World Cup squad is the last bastion, a hallmark for individuality and flair, and Sócrates, the leader personalising the spirit of that wonderful team.
The most appealing aspect of his story, one which I think we can extend to every single field of human endeavour, whereas in arts or sports, is that talent this bright is not a product of 'hard work' and learnt technique, no - it is something way more powerful and out of control: it is a natural gift, randomly scrambled and falling perfectly into place.
Sócrates was like that, effortlessly talented.
He liked staying up late, smokin 'n' drinkin' and would often skip practice - because he could.
He would stride lean and horse-like onto the field, beautifully. This gentle giant without a hint of arrogance, almost like saying: look, look at me, there's this thing I can do without even trying to, it starts in my head, grows in the groin and lands on my feet. It's no big deal, really.
That's just who I am.
pure genius.
About a year ago, a journalist who follows me on twitter, aware of my passion for the Great Doctor, sent me Sócrates' personal email address, as he was gonna be in London for a week. I had every intention of contacting him and get him to speak a few words on a new footie song I'd written. But I never got in touch, the days went by and I completely forgot about it.
Whether we would have met or not is now immaterial, as the idea that we could have met will now live in my imagination.
Here's a Youtube tribute to that great 1982 squad - featuring some dodgyo over-melodramatic muzak and nasty graphics - it worked for me: had to drag emergency box of Kleenex out:
and make sure to take a good look at the team line-up before the match: every shape, colour and size: each one, a unique little talent, and how unlike the pathetic and uninspiring pasteurized muscle-inflated billion-dollar corporate ad selling machine of today's modern players.

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