Garrincha in typical pose during the 1962 World Cup Final in Santiago de Chile.

a freelance journalist in Brazil.

He was a genius on the football pitch, but in private life everything seemed to go wrong. A biography of the unforgettable Brazilian dribbler Garrincha has just been published, written by journalist Ruy Castro.

Ruy Castro (49) is a journalist in Brazil. And an author. His special interest is famous contemporary figures and their lives. With "Estrela solitaria" (The Lone Star) he finished his third biography a few months ago - a personal hat trick.

He describes his motivation for writing biographies as being a desire to "bring the human side of public heroes to those who only see the glamour, and the heroic side to those who only see the person."

He has achieved his aim with all three of his books. In 1990, "Chega de Saudade" appeared - a life of the singer and composer Joao Gilberto, and in 1993 "Anjo Pornografico", about the writer Nelson Rodrigues. A few months ago, his latest work "Estrela solitaria" appeared, a biography of Garrincha.

Name: Manuel Francisco dos Santos (Mane Garrincha)
Date of birth: 28 October 1933 in Pau Grande (Rio de Janeiro)
Died: 20 January 1983 in Rio de Janeiro
Clubs: LecPan Grande (1948 - 1952), Botafago Rio (1953 - 1964),
Corinthians São Paolo (1965 - 1968), Barranquila, Colombia (1968),
Flamengo (1969), Red Star Paris (1971/72), Olaria Rio (1972).
Internationals: 54, between 1955 and 1966, 34 goals
Successes: World Cup winner 1958 and 1962,
World Cup finals 1966.
Garrincha was married three times and had eight daughters with Nair, and a son named Garrinchinha with Wanderleia. There were also a daughter and a son called Nenem with Iraci, and a son named Ulf with a Swedish mother. Garrinchinha and Nenem both died in car accidents at the ages of 9 and 6 respectively. Ulf Lindberg, born in 1960, is the only officially recognised male descendant of Mane Garrincha.

Of the three heroes chosen by Ruy Castro, the singer Joao Gilberto was the last who died (in 1995). Gilberto was born in 1931, two years before Manuel Francisco dos Santos, or Garrincha as he was known to the football world. Rodrigues died of cancer in 1980, at the age of 68. Garrincha died of alcohol poisoning on 20 January 1983, not quite 50. Yet while Gilberto's music lives on and Rodrigues is still frequently quoted in the Brazilian press, Garrincha is the only one of the three who ranks among the best known Brazilians of the 20th century. The group includes the current minister of sport, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele; Cetulio Vargas, the president who committed suicide in 1954, and Tancredo Neves, the first president of the New Republic after 20 years of military rule, who died on the operating table after just a few months in office.

The songbird

Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo, who was born two years before Garrincha and who is the only man on earth who can call himself a four times football World Cup winner, can confirm much of Ruy Castro's biography: "While part of what he's written I was not aware of, what I do know of Mane's life is correctly recorded here." And Zagallo should know; from 1958 to 1964 he played with Garrincha for Botafago, and in 1958 (Sweden) and 1962 (Chile) they were members of the winning Brazilian team.

Doing the research for the book was not an easy task. In tracing Garrincha's history back (the name Garrincha itself means songbird, but he was also known as the "Chaplin of football"), Ruy Castro explored the player's ancestry, which includes Indios, mulattos and blacks. He talked to more than 150 people who had played either major or minor roles in Garrincha's life, totalling over 500 interviews. In the course of the investigation it became clear that behind the brilliant ball artist was not the debilitated figure often assumed but a highly sensitive person, who finally succumbed to alcohol.

Tragic end

During the six years that Zagalo and Garrincha were together almost every day, the master dribbler was at the peak of his life. But even then he was also hopelessly in the clutches of alcohol. By 1966 when he left Botafago and played his 54th and final match for the Brazilian team during the World Cup in England, a tragic end was already in sight.

Spells of hospitalisation became more and more frequent. His last appearance as a player was at Christmas time in 1982 in Brasilia, and he emptied his last bottle on 19 January 1983, dying during the following night in hospital. Several internal organs has suffered irreparable damage, his body could take no more. Mario Zagallo related recently in a television interview how a coach at Flamengo had once forbidden him to dribble. For fear of losing his place in the team he complied and put his efforts totally into team play. But, in answer to the question about how this would relate to Garrincha, he replied: "No-one will ever be able to dribble like he did."

Inimitable dribbler

Garrincha (right) leads the celebrations of Brazil's first World Cup victory in 1958.
And in fact, Garrincha's dribbles are unforgettable. And inimitable. He managed to perform his wizardry with legs that did not seem to be made for football - the left one was bent inwards and the right was six centimetres shorter and curved outwards.

In all the international matches in which Pele and Garrincha played together, Brazil did not lose once. Pele adds the note: "Without Garrincha, I would never have been a three times world champion." Events at the World Cup in Chile in 1962 back up these words. When Pele was out of the team after the second of six matches, Garrincha took over his role. He played more effectively and more directly than ever before. While he continued to make goals for others, he also scored four himself in that tournament.

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