With his classical name, revolutionary aura and medical qualification, it is fair to say that Socrates was not like most footballers. The former Brazil international passed away on Sunday 4 December 2011, and there is an understandable sense among the football community that it is has lost a truly unique member.
A veteran of FIFA World Cups™ in 1982 and 1986, “Doctor” Socrates came to symbolise a generation of exceptionally gifted Brazilian players, and was recognised as one of the finest practitioners of the celebrated jogo bonito style. Brazil may not have lifted the trophy in either of Socrates’ FIFA World Cup appearances, but they left a lasting impression on football lovers around the world with their bewitching skill and carefree style of play.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has sent a letter of condolence to Ricardo Terra Teixeira, his counterpart at the Brazilian Football Federation, expressing his sadness at Socrates’ passing. “It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Socrates, an Auriverde legend and one of the most brilliant players in the history of Brazilian football,” he wrote. “He was a legendary, highly technical player who was gifted with outstanding vision on the field. Along with Zico and Falcao, he formed part of a magical Brazilian generation that captivated the world between 1978 and 1986, one that played the beautiful game and could seemingly juggle the ball into the goal.”
Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Sousa Vieira de Oliveira, to give him his full name, scored 22 goals in 60 international outings as an attacking midfielder. He was a recognisable figure on the pitch as much for his flawless technique as for his proud posture, beard and upright dribbling style. After starting his career at Botafogo, he had spells at clubs including Corinthians and Fiorentina, where he not only helped win trophies, but also left a mark with the way he approached the beautiful game.
His pursuit of a doctorate in medicine in Sao Paulo earned him the nickname “Doctor,” and he continued to practise as a sports medicine specialist alongside his work as a television, radio and newspaper pundit. Socrates was first hospitalised in September this year with bleeding in his digestive tract, and was readmitted on Friday night. He died on 4 December aged 57, following an intestinal infection.
“On behalf of the international football family, please allow me to offer you our sincerest condolences,” Blatter added in his letter. “I would also be very grateful if you could communicate all my sympathy and support to the family and friends of Socrates during this time of great sadness.”