2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™

12 June - 13 July

2014 FIFA World Cup™

'13' tributes for birthday boy Zagallo

Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo, the old wolf of Brazilian football, turns 82 on Friday. The former player and coach occupies an eminent position in the game, having won four FIFA World Cup™ titles in various capacities. As a player he helped Brazil conquer the world at Sweden 1958 and Chile 1962, and as a coach he steered A Seleção to glory at Mexico 1970. He then won a fourth world crown at USA 1994 as a technical coordinator and right-hand man to head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.

A superstitious person, Zagallo is very much attached to the number 13 and has never been shy at linking it to his achievements. For that reason and in homage to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil ambassador as he chalks up another birthday, FIFA.com asked 13 of Brazil’s football greats for their tributes to the Old Wolf.

PeléPlayed with Zagallo at Sweden 1958 and Chile 1962 and under him at Mexico 1970

“Zagallo’s like a brother to me. I’ll never forget when we arrived in Sweden for the 1958 World Cup. At 17 I was the youngest member of the team, and Zagallo, along with Zito and Gilmar, took me under his wing.”

*Played with Zagallo at Chile 1962 *

“I hold Zagallo in very high regard. All I can say to him is that I am very proud to have played with him during my heyday and to have been his friend ever since. I went to Botafogo one day for a trial and when he saw me he said to the coach Joao Saldanha: ‘I know that kid and you can sign him’. That made him an even bigger hero in my eyes and I was so happy at what he said that I did well in training, scored a goal and got myself signed up.”

A member of the Brazil side at USA 1994

“Zagallo is a role model. With him, it’s like I’ve been given a second father and I have so much love for him. He asked for my shirt in 1994 and I just can’t understand why. He invited me to his house some time later and he’d framed the shirt and put it above his bed. Can you imagine that? There’s a guy who’s won the lot as a player and coach, and he’s got my jersey framed in his house.”

A member of the Brazil side at USA 1994

“Zagallo is a master and I love him very much. I have a lot of affection and respect for him. I remember the team-talk before the Netherlands match, when he started talking about the centre-half [Jaap] Stam. ‘Listen,’ he said. “The Dutch have got Stam and you’ve got to stop him. He’s very strong and he’s got a lot of raça (Portuguese for “class”). He’s a racist!’. When he said that we all looked at each other and tried not to laugh because we could see he’d made a mistake. Zagallo realised what he’d said, paused for a few seconds, and started to laugh, saying: ‘I had you there, didn’t I?’. Everyone just burst out laughing.”

Carlos Alberto Torres
Played under Zagallo at Mexico 1970

“We should never forget just how good a coach Zagallo was. He was very intelligent and expressed himself really well. The fans didn’t believe in the team when it left for Mexico in 1970 and he was one of the few people to get behind us. When we got to the World Cup we had this amazing run of form and won the title. I have to say though, it was all down to the work that Zagallo did.”

Evaristo de Macedo
Former Brazil, Real Madrid and Barcelona player and a team-mate of Zagallo’s at Flamengo

“It’s a pleasure to talk about Zagallo. We’ve had a very close relationship ever since we were kids at Flamengo. We were young back then and I’ve got this great story, but I can’t tell it because we were naughty and we had a good time (laughs). We played on the same side of the pitch, on the left, and we had a really good understanding. He’s a very close friend. All I can say is that I wish him a happy birthday with his family and friends, and I hope he has a long life and remains with us for many more years.”

GersonPlayed under Zagallo at Mexico 1970

“I can’t praise Zagallo enough. His story is bound up with that of the national team. I’d even go as far as to say that there’s no one as well qualified as he is to be with the national team, and there never will be. He started coaching after he retired as a player and when Joao Saldanha left Botafogo to coach A Seleção, I told the club president we should sign Zagallo. He came in and we won the championship with him, and then we became world champions with him for Brazil.”

JairzinhoPlayed under Zagallo at Mexico 1970

“Zagallo is such an important person in my life that there isn’t one single story that sums up what he means to me. There are so many stories from our time at Botafogo and the national side, though none of them can express my respect for the person he has always been. He’s achieved things because of his ability and intelligence and he’ll always have my respect. I wish Zagallo the very best.”

Junior Baiano
Played under Zagallo in the Brazil side that finished runners-up at France 1998

“Zagallo is Brazilian football, and when you talk about the national team, you talk about him. I followed a lot of the advice he gave me. He can be serious and focused but he can be funny and down-to-earth too. There was this one time when I was playing for Flamengo and we had a game against Parana. I’d been called up for Brazil and had to report for duty the next day. I got sent off in the game, though, and came in for criticism in the press. When I turned up at the national team camp, Zagallo took me to one side and said: ‘Baiano, I saw the game. You went for the ball but you need to control yourself. If you get sent off, the press are going to go for us. But if I don’t pick you for the World Cup, then who am I going to take? So next time make sure you don’t go in so hard!’. That’s Zagallo for you. I was happy after that little chat. I could see he liked me a lot.”

Carlos Alberto Parreira*
Brazil’s fitness coach at Mexico 1970 and head coach at USA 1994 *

“Zagallo was a visionary and I’ll tell you why. In 1971 he was the head coach at Fluminense and I was the fitness coach. At the time Botafogo were known Sele-Fogo because they had all these stars who played for the national team. They were five points ahead of us in the league with three games remaining. This was when there only two points for a win. People will tell you that Barcelona reinvented the game by playing without a centre-forward, but Zagallo was doing that in 1971. We had a centre-forward called Flavio, who was on the bench at the time, and we were asked to play him because the league was as good as over and Flavio would fetch a good price if Fluminense decided to sell him. When he heard that, Zagallo blew up and said the championship wasn’t over and that we’d fight to the end. And that’s what we did! Botafogo lost two games in a row and we won ours, which meant we went into the last game of the season, against Botafogo, just a point behind. We won with a goal from Lula and took the title. I wish Zagallo every happiness and I hope he stays with us for a long time. I’m sure he’ll see another Brazilian triumph at the next World Cup. It’ll be an honour for us to have him as a fan. He’s a fan who knows how to win. He’s won the lot as both a player and a coach.”

Ricardo Rocha
A member of the Brazil side at USA 1994

“I’ve got affection and respect for Zagallo. He’s the leading representative of the Brazilian national team, and he’s a great friend too. I’ve always had a lot of fun with him, but there is one special story that sticks in my mind. I got injured at the World Cup in the USA and he could see I was concerned. He came over to speak to me and said something like: ‘Relax, we need you. You’re going to be with us till the end.” He gave me a lot of confidence and that gave me the strength to see things through. I’m eternally grateful to him for that.”

Roberto Rivellino
Played under Zagallo at Mexico 1970

“I have a lot of admiration and respect for Zagallo as a person and a professional, and he was also a very important figure in my career as a three-time world champion and Brazil’s second-most capped player of all time. There’s one special moment we shared that I’ll never forget, one that showed his tactical appreciation and the belief he had in my talent. It was when he picked me for a friendly against Austria at the Maracana. It was our last game before the 1970 World Cup, and I was one of the best players on the park that day and scored a fine goal too. I went on to wear the yellow of Brazil for nearly 11 years. Thanks Zagallo for believing in me.”

Played under Zagallo at Mexico 1970

“Zagallo was a great coach and one of the game’s innovators at the time, at Mexico 1970. He worked a lot on tactics in training, which other coaches didn’t do so much. He was a very energetic and passionate person too. I can still remember him urging the team on at half-time in the semi-final against Uruguay. It was a really tough match and Brazil hadn’t been at their best in the first half, but we won and made it to the Final.” 

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