RIP Socrates

The greatest-ever philosopher? It can’t be Plato or Aristotle because they never played for Brazil.

It’s been a bad week for football, with the passing of ex-Evertonian Gary Speed. Now comes, if anything, even worse news.

The Brazil team of 1982 was, in my humble opinion, the best of all the sides from that country. Again, they never won anything, but took part in arguably the greatest-ever World Cup match in Spain that year, losing to an inspired Italy. That had some great players but none, not even Zico, as great as Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Sousa Vieira de Oliveira, known as Socrates for short.

He wasn’t your typical Brazilian footballer. He was as near to being an intellectual as any player, before or since. He delayed his professional career to qualify as a medical doctor, was at the forefront of democratic protest against the Brazilian junta at the time, was a well-known journalist and commentator and gained a Ph.D in philosophy.

On the field it showed. He is recorded as saying that he played to his weaknesses but you would never know. A towering yet elegant presence, few ever read the game as well as he did, few had his eye for a defence-splitting pass, and very few showed such leadership. He will be missed.

Socrates. 19 February 1954 – 4 December 2011

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