Garrincha – Flawed Genius

Now when it comes to role models versus flawed genius’s I always seem to prefer the role models, for example I think Pele was a better player than Maradona. I think George Best & Paul Gascoigne were talented players but when people mention ‘great careers’ I cant help but feel they did not fully reach their potential. I would always take Nemanja Vidic over John Terry, Vidic is the better centre back but a major factor would be I hate John Terry’s personal misdemeanours.

So it goes against my nature to like Mane Garrincha as much as I do. I first heard of him when researching past World Cups & then I read the fabulous book Ruy Castro. Then I seen youtube videos & read more about him on the web.

By all rights he should never have been a professional footballer as he was short, stalky & both of his leg bent the same way. Garrincha, was poorly educated mainly due to him skipping school to swim, hunt or play football. Many in his later years would believe Garrincha to be simple.

As a player Garrincha was magic, he had a wee faint towards the ball, the defender would lunge in & before you knew it Garrincha was off in the other direction. Garrincha was what we would say a right forward. He walked into his first training session at Botafogo as an unknown aged 20, & then got the ball dribbled up to Brazilian legend Left Back Nilton Santos & nut-megged him before doing it again. Santos was gracious about the event & even demanded that the Botafogo board sign the boy up. His career for Botafogo was extraordinary he played there for 12 years clocking up around 580 appearances scoring a whopping 232 goals. Winning the Intercontinental Club Championship, two Brazilian Club Championships & three Rio State Championships. He would leave a turn out for various clubs a shadow of his former self, mainly due to him never training properly or his drink issues. But Corinthians & Flamengo still signed him thinking the hero would get bums on seats but at his best Garrincha was none as the player to get bums off seats. All he wanted was the ball, goals for Garrincha came after entertainment he would beat a player three times just to wow the crowd, something managers would tear their hair out if they were seeing players do that today.

With Brazil Garrincha would win 50 caps & score 12 goals, he would lift their first World Cup in 1958 & win his second in 1962 where he would be named the tournaments Best Player. The Maracana has named the home dressing room Garrincha & the away one  Pele after the two greats. In fact Brazil never lost a game when Pele & Garrincha played together.

Some have questioned why Pele did not do more to help Garrincha with his troubles. Maradona in his book, El Diego, says “I would have liked him to look after Garrincha instead of letting him die broke”. For me this is unfair, one Pele claims he did reach out on a few occasions to help Mane, two these two men were not very similar & certainly not best of friends & three most importantly you can only help an alcoholic willing to accept that help. Garrincha never seeked help.

Now I wish I was writing a fairy-tale & tell you that Mane conquered his demons & is still alive today or just end the article with not discussing his personal life which at best was chaotic but the Garrincha story should be told as a warning to young footballers.

Off the field Garrincha was a pleasant & kid like man but he was a chronic alcoholic from a young age. He would return to Pau Grande his hometown for benders even when he was still playing. He would leave the Brazilian national teams camps in search of a drink & some fun knowing if he got caught he could get thrown off the team. He was a very lazy trainer partly due to his work ethic & a lot to do with what time he had got to bed that same morning! To be fair like a lot of alcoholic’s Garrincha’s inherited the problem from his father both shared the same love for Cachaca, a Brazilian liqueur made from fermented sugar cane. In the picture above Mane is clearly drunk on a float during the Rio Carnival.

Garrincha was also a serial adulterer fathering up to at least 14 children. He left his wife & would then marry Elza Soares a famous Samba singer, this marriage would be frowned upon by the local media. Soares would leave Mane after he hit her. He never learned to drive but that that never stopped him from doing it & a lot of the time drunk. He once ran over his own father. But it was in 1969 he would drunkenly crash into a truck on the wrong side of the road, this crash killed his mother-in-law.

Mane Garrincha’s life was not like that of a cartoon hero, he was the classical flawed genius. In 1983, a year before I was born, Garrincha died aged 49 of Cirrhosis of the liver. Many in Brazil debate who the better player was Pele or Garrincha… For me my head wins & says the role model Pele but my heart does have a place in it for Mane Garrincha.

6 Responses to “Garrincha – Flawed Genius”

  1. I love some of Garrincha’s stories, he clearly wasn’t all there mentally, evidenced not only by his adultery and alcoholism but also just by his far off gaze, most notably when he won his first world cup and got confused by his team mates celebrations, believing that he needed to play all the sides again and that it was a league tournament.

    Am I right in thinking the only game Brazil lost when he started was his last game? I’m sure there was something incredible like that, also in ’58 Brazil made all players undergo IQ tests to be in the squad, he failed but was allowed in anyway, that decision was probably the greatest in Brazilian football history!

  2. Yeah he failed the IQ tests, by far worst in the squad. I have heard that stat but also read it was the only WC game he lost, not sure which is true. It was against Hungry in 66.

    The story in Sweden was funny he didn’t know why the Russians were so gutted in the group game as he thought they would play again, not realising they had just put them out!

  3. Hi

    Brazil never lost a match when both Garrincha and Pele played.

    In that photo on the carnival truck, Garrincha wasn’t drunk, rather he was seriously ill – when Pele saw him, he thought he looked like a Zombie. His alcohol intake did not affect his game as much as the knee operation he had in the early 1960s. After that, the speed was gone. Then, the alcohol kicked into his game.

    Garrincha often signed dubious contracts which left him very underpaid for his talents. Also, he had an ambivolous attitude to money. Add to that Garrincha was fantastically endowed and so was a magnet for women – the subsequent partying lifestyle also contributed to his early death.

  4. […] If you are interested in learning a little more about this player  I can recommend the following article from The Footy Blog – Garrincha Flawed Genius […]

  5. […] Garrincha a tragic life would follow after he left the game as he lost the popularity and fame that came during his playing days. He was a broken and […]

  6. […] (photo thefootyblog) […]

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