Book Review: Garrincha

Garrincha by Ruy Castro.

Now this book is absolutely fascinating. Garrincha was the George Best of Brazilian football. He was a superstar in the 50s and 6os, winning 50 caps scoring 12 goals. Every time he and Pele played in the same team Brazil never lost. Unfortunately like Best he had a thing for the ladies and was also an alcoholic, which ended in a very tragic early death.

The book starts from the beginning, his childhood. It tells us of his crooked legs, his left bent out while his right bent in the way. It tells us he was always a bit of a rebel, skipping school to fish or play football. Strangely the book then speculates that Garrincha lost his virginity to a goat.

However after this bit of sensationalism the book gathers pace telling us the facts of Garrincha’s playing career, how he broke into the Brazil National team and won two consecutive World Cups. He like Pele became a superstar in his homeland and the book shows us how the trappings of this celebrity turned him to alcohol. This ultimately lead to his decline.

The book shows us how he lived his life and during his decline, he had countless affairs and was responsible for the death of his mother-in-law after he crashed his car, that he was driving while drunk. The book then tells us of Garrincha’s death, he died of cirrhosis of the liver attributed to alcoholism. He also died penniless and very over weight at the age of 50.

This was a great if tragic book. I found it very hard to put down as it was telling the reader so much about a golden age for football. It should be read by every young footballer today as a way of showing them how not to ruin their life because players after Garrincha like Best, Maradonna and Gascoigne certainly have not learned from his downfall.

2 Responses to “Book Review: Garrincha”

  1. I had heard of Garrincha but never seen any footage of him playing. There is video footage on this site. Personally I think that is a better way to remember him than speculation about his private life which he is unable to reply to. Were he and Pele friends off the park?

  2. There is debate to how friendly they were, Maradona said that he felt Pele should have done more to help him. Pele in his book says he visited Garrincha in his final years and that he was sorry that he could not do more to help. By the way both agree Garrincha was an outstanding talent.

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