You called me—- Socrates!!!!!!

30 Nov

Since writing the article below I was told the following story:

The scene is a medical conference in a large London hotel. There was a heavy emphasis on social and sports medicine.

Now, I have no idea whether medical conferences are exciting or boring, but I suspect that like every other conference they can have their ups and downs, highs and lows.

Whatever the feeling for this conference, a group of doctors were gathered in the bar after a session having a drink, with one guy in particular holding court on his sporting– footballing — prowess.

The man concerned was telling story after story. If I recall correctly he was the Doctor for Arsenal,I think, or had some connection to Arsenal so he was regaling his audience with tales of Henry, Petit, Vieira, Bergkamp and so on.

He also talked away about his own footballing career with someone like Plymouth Argyle or Bournemouth AFC, where from time to time he got to play against some real stars of the game.He supplied various names and various stories which featured himself.

His audience were in raptures.

Pausing for breath, the doctor asked any of his audience if they had played any sport professionally?

None had, and made murmurs about playing some lower league stuff and so on, when a quiet voice from the back said ” I used to play a bit”.

Apparently the assembled audience turned to see a tall bearded man, holding a drink and smoking a cigarette. He was clearly a foreigner and was asked if he played here in England or “somewhere else”?

” Oh I never played in England” said the man

” Well did you play at a top level– for anyone we would have heard of?” said the original story teller

” Yes I played at a decent professional standard” said the man in prefect English

” Who for?”

” Well— I was the captain of Brazil– once or twice”

” Eh?– What’s your name?” said the unrecognising questioner

“They called me Socrates” came the unassuming reply

… and the man from Plymouth Argyle disappeared in the crowd.


4 December, 2011 at 12:32

Good Afternoon,

When the management and players of Tadcaster Albion turned up at Garforth Town A.F.C for a Northern Premier League Division One North Match on 20th November 2004, they could not quite believe their ears……. or their eyes.

There had been rumours that Garforth Town ( formerly Garforth Miners ) had a new player coach, and that he was a “foreigner” but no one expected this. Matters were confirmed when the team sheets were handed out, and there among the list of substitutes was his name.


Socrates Brasileiro Sampau de Souza Veirs de Oliveira was Captain of Brazil, played in two world cups, and may well be the oddest class footballer of modern times.

Between 1974-78 he appeared for Botafogo SP on 57 occasions scoring 24 goals before moving on to the famous Corinthians club where he would stay for 6 years. By the time he left there in 1984 he had pulled on their Jersey some 297 times and had scored an amazing 172 goals, which was astonishing for a midfielder. He then played with Fiorentina in Italy for a season making 25 appearances and scoring 6 goals before heading back to Brazil. By this time he was not far off finished with football and made 14 appearances for Flamengo and Santos over the next couple of years. That was it, until he suddenly turned up one day in the North of England and appeared from the bench for 13 minutes or so.

Socrates’ footballing abilities were in no doubt, and Pele named him as one of Brazil’s 100 leading footballers of all time. Anyone who saw him in the 1982 World Cup will recall him as the tall (6’4″) bearded captain with the curly hair and the occasional headband who was stick thin, immensely gifted and had an air of “cool” about him. Indeed he was declared the symbol of cool for a whole generation of football fans in Brazil.

But by the time he took the field for Garforth Town he was huge as the video below will show.

At his height, Socrates was known on the field of play for thrilling passes, great goals and for his trademark back heel passes that blindsided the opposition.

Off the field he was known for his politics ( he once had a whole Corinthian team wear shirts that said “Democracy” in protest at the Government ), for being a fully qualified Doctor– and for smoking like a lum and drinking like a fish!!

Indeed he delayed playing any type of football to study medicine and after his retiral he practised as a Doctor in Rebeiro Preto where he lived with his wife and six children. He was also a newspaper columnist on sport and politics, did punditry stints for the television and wrote books. However, he continued to smoke two packets of cigarettes a day and have a far from healthy alcohol intake which in turn caused ballooning weight and health problems.

In August of this year, he was admitted to Hospital with internal bleeding and placed in intensive care. Regrettably he died this morning at the age of just 56. The liver and other parts apparently had seen enough for one lifetime– maybe two.

He will be mourned in Brazil as a past player and as a political activist and a character. He will be mourned as a father, husband and friend.

I won’t pretend to ever understand a clearly bright, intelligent, professional athlete who abused his body with cigarettes and alcohol the way he did. He knew exactly what he was doing, was dedicated to medicine from an early age and yet seemingly did not give a toss and lived the way he wanted to.

He loved John Lennon, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and named one of his children Fidel! When his mother complained and said that this was a “harsh” name for a child he responded” Eh– You called me Socrates!”.

He was the captain of the greatest entertaining team to win absolutely nothing, and there was a suggestion that the national team’s general attitude could have been better if someone less laid back had been captain at the time!

After all, this was the guy who only took two steps when taking a penalty!

That may very well be– but Socrates was Socrates and you only get the good with the bad. Take it or leave it.

It was said that the longest he used to go without a cigarette was when he was sleeping or during the 90 minutes of a football match…. Or when making love!

Yet later in veterans exhibitions games, one ex pro talked of the unbelievable scene of the great man wandering to the side-lines and getting the occasional puff from  a fan during the game!

There may well be a hell of a price to pay for being a chain smoking prince of cool as can be seen here in that last footballing appearance.

However, it would be unfair to leave with that image as a finale.

So if you have 5 minutes to spare, grab a cup of coffee ( a fag if you indulge ) and just watch football the way it should be played– even by a mad, philosophic, political, chain smoking Brazilian Doctor and his team of under achievers! As a boy this is what makes you want to kick a football!!!!!

Socrates– more than just a name RIP


3 Responses to “You called me—- Socrates!!!!!!”

  1. droid November 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    The great man must surely be of Scots or Irish descent somewhere #lustforlife

  2. campsiejoe November 30, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    That 1982 side was the closest Brazil have ever come to being true successors to the side of 1970, which to this day remains my favourite international side
    How they didn’t win that year with the likes of Zico, Falcao, Eder and of course Socrates will forever remain a mystery
    The game against Italy must rank up there with one of the very best ever palyed

  3. Dan December 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Thank you for sharing that story with us, very entertaining. That video is class. The way football should be played in my humble opinion. Lifts the spirit.

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