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ico is the greater scorer on Flamengo's history, with 508 goals on 731 games. He is the idol of a nation of more than 35 million fans all around the brazilian country. He scored 333 times on Maracanã, a record not yet broken by any other player. He took over Italy during the two seasons that played for Udinese, leaving a flavor of the brazilian spice on the traditional italian macaroni. In Japan, he is admired by people that never get tired of rendering him honors for all the things he did for soccer on the land of the rising sun. The japanese fans made a carnival out of his definitive farewell game (1994), building two statues for him. And the emperor himself gave him a medal for all he did on the country's benefit. The most important demonstration of trust, however, happened last year, when they gave him the harsh mission of leading the national team on their quest for a place on the 2006 World Cup. During his years as a soccer player, Zico also achieved a notable level of reverence on countries where he played, such as France and Spain.

It is not possible to precise the exact moment that a man turns into an idol, when it happens naturally, with no influence of image building resources. Zico is a true old-fashioned kind of example, once it all started from the cozy neighborhood of Quintino, by the feet of a gifted boy, filled with love for soccer, respect, discipline and lots of courage. Just to mention some of the mix main ingredients. Nothing artificial or built up.
During his childhood, his relation with the ball was already very affective. Zico used to sleep with it next to his pillow, treating it with a lot of tenderness. It could be just a ball made of socks or at a table soccer game, but his attentions were always focused on it. And on its turn, the ball never let him down. It learned to be always near his feet and to obey his will on the way to the goal. 

Zico's first memories of Maracanã date from April 23 of 1961, when he was only eight years old. And that day was marked by the beginning of the love affair between the all-star and the Temple of Soccer. Taken by his father to a game in which Flamengo ended up conquering the Rio-São Paulo tournament, the little Arthur could watch a very talented player called Edvaldo Alves de Santa Rosa, also known as Dida. Flamengo's number 10 scored twice for the championship and for the place of idol on Zico's heart. The little boy was completely fascinated. But there is also who swears that this love story started much earlier. "Di-Da" would have been one of the first words spoken by Zico, at the age of two. 

Four years later, Zico would make his first step on the field of the stadium that later enshrined him. He was taken by his neighbor Ivo, who worked on the stadium management. At that time, the all-star already made the opposing teams' backs go crazy and distributed precise passes for his teammates of Juventude, no matter if that was on non-grassy or indoor fields, or even on street matches so common in Brazil. But in his dreams, the Temple of Soccer appeared as his house's backyard. A kind of premonition.



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From Quintino's Juventude to Flamengo

At the age of 14, Zico was requested by other teams like Inharé and Maraviha to be one of their players at local tournaments. It was when Germano José Grilo - the Ximango - creator and encourager of Juventude, called the radio speaker Celso Garcia to watch Zico playing on a tournament at the River Tennis Club. His intention was to convince Celso, an influent Flamengo fan, to arrange a test for the boy on the club, what ended up happening on September 28. The old Antunes was against the idea and his brother Edu wanted him playing for América. But Zico followed his heart and went towards Gávea. And on the first day of the next October, he scored his first two goals for the club's soccer school, on the victory over Everest, with the final score of 4 to 3.

In 1970, Zico received a pair of soccer playing shoes by the hands of Carlinhos, leaving the soccer at that moment. A symbolic gesture, like a stick passed by the virtuous midfield, on the hope that the young player could carry it with the same level of quality. This way, even without knowing it, the 'Violin' took part on the building of that dream team.

Zico was already a young talent, but some people saw little possibility of success due to the fact that the all-star was too skinny at the age of 17. The fact that he was below the standard of physical development for a boy at that age worried some of the club's directors. Believing on the all-star talent, the vice-president George Helal gathered a team of experts to implement an unseen program of physical development with the objective of making Zico acquire muscular mass, so then he would be able to stand collisions against opposite teams' backs. The work was coordinated by José Roberto Francalacci, Dr. José de Paula Chaves and José de Paula Chaves Filho. After the following four years, he was 2.3 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. 

His mind remained focused on the objectives, even with his body suffering such big changes. Calm and judicious, the all-star had his virtues tested a lot, and stood up firmly all the times. His most remarkable setback is also considered by him as the biggest deception of his entire career. In 1971, he played for the main team for the first time and scored once, on the tie of 1 to 1 against Bahia, at the Fonte Nova stadium. However, aiming to play at the Olympic Games on the following year, he accepted to stay on the juvenile team. But when the players for the Olympic Games were called, he was not among them. Zico was deeply disappointed about that and even thought on leaving the soccer behind. His family support was crucial for him to keep on. And even though, the all-star conquered the State Championship for Flamengo that year, both on the juvenile and pro classes.

Zico's second probation came on the form of an hysterical scream, echoing without any sender and fed by envy and localism. It was said that he was a lab all-star, physically fabricated inside Flamengo. His brother Edu spoke about this issue with a lot of proper speech: "the lab was there, at Quintino. It was Mrs. Matilde's food." The all-star would also be accused of being a Maracanã player, incapable of keeping the same level of quality on other stadiums. Time ended up revealing that these statements were absurd. Zico surpassed these obstacles with the same intelligence that he applied to leave the opponent team's backs behind, answering to all these questions inside the field, with 831 goals scored all around the world.

There is no doubt that Maracanã is his magic place. There, he scored incredible goals that ended on unforgettable celebrations. And also broke some records on the green field of Mário Filho Stadium. With the same number 10 that once belonged to Dida, Zico surpassed the mark that once also belonged to his idol. He scored 333 times for Flamengo on the Temple of Soccer. He also scored six times on a match against Goytacaz, by the State Championship of 1979 (7 to 1), equaling the feat of the man that once inspired him.

Dida passed away last year, at the age of 68. The testimony below, part of the biography 'Dida: Histories of a champion', written by his brother Luiz Alves, Gávea's number 10 during the fifties and sixties makes an affectionate analysis of the all-star, fan and friend.

 

"Some people relate Zico's fame to the idea that he was a pre-fabricated all-star, a lab product. But this is not true. What led Zico to a glorious career was his simplicity and, in a more significant level, his congenital technical qualities, attributes that no laboratory or machine could ever create. No machine could teach him the perfect shoots that became his trademark, and could not either tell him how to see the game from inside the field. No computer in this world, no matter how advanced it may be, would be able to teach him how to execute those perfect free kicks in a way that only he could ever do. Zico's extraordinary reflex is a natural born quality, something no laboratory could create (…) Zico a much more complete player than I ever was… If I had such a firm kick, would have gone much further in soccer" 

 

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Zico conquers The World

Flamengo's fans did not take long to recognize Zico as an all-star, but the idolatry would gain a taste of immortality when the team's golden generation conquered the world. Zico leaded that magic team of the eighties, a team composed by Raúl, Júnior, Rondinelli, Lico, Tita, Andrade, Adílio and other fantastic players. It all started with Rondinelli's goal on the 1978 State Championship's final. After that, the team conquered the following titles in a row: their first national championship title (1980), the Libertadores da América Cup (1981), the Intercontinental Cup (1981) and more two national championship titles (1982-83). He was also the scoring leader on some of these competitions and on many others.

At the same time, Zico played for the Brazilian team in two World Cups. In 1978, Brazil was not able to defeat Argentina, which won both inside the field and with some external help. In 1982, the team enchanted the planet with the so called art soccer, under the command of the coach Telê Santana. Unfortunately, the team did not win once more, throwing away its chances on an unforgettable defeat for Italy.

Back to 1979. It was the year in which Zico achieved international respect after his participation on an exhibit match for a Fifa team formed by the best players of the world. And one Flamengo's excursion to Italy called the Udinese directors' attention to the player. Udinese was not one of the favorites, but was trying to raise a competitive team for the italian championship. But they could bring Zico only in 1983, and with a lot of effort. Zico was an idol at Flamengo and did not want to leave the country. Sold by the club against his will, he flew to Udine just to make history. Unique free kicker, he scored so much that the keepers tried to bring together way to stop the all-star.

It was not by chance that he scored in a way like that. Since his young boy days, Zico was really compromised about that. His natural aptitude was helped by discipline. The shirt hanged on the crossbar serving as reference for the shots was the all-star main training technique. And how it worked! Udinese did not conquer any title, but carried memorable campaigns on the league at that time. Zico was a highlight and lead scorer by goals average.

Zico's mind was always turned to Flamengo. And his comeback happened in 1985, two seasons after he left the club. The fans already considered Arthur a king and were anxiously waiting for a triumphal return. But on August 29 of that same year, an absurd foul committed by a local team back named Márcio Nunes jeopardized the all-star career. Zico suffered multiple injuries on the legs, mainly on his left knee. Comebacks and interruptions started to become frequent on his career, and it would be necessary four surgeries throughout the following years for him to keep playing soccer.

His participation on the 1986 World Cup would only confirm the all-star's courage and determination. Some doubted of his possibility of playing after that serious injury. The answer came on a national classic between Flamengo and Fluminense that took place on the World Cup's year, in a game that confirmed his trip to Mexico. The coach Telê Santana called him, and destiny was capricious enough to make the referee point a decisive penalty kick against France only moments after the all-star came into the field. The move that originated the penalty suffered by Branco was born on Zico's feet. Unfortunately, he kicked but did not score. After a tie on regular time, he went for a penalty kick again, scoring this time. But Brazil was eliminated at the end of the game.

Back to his country, Zico kept his place on the heart of the fans. And the struggle for playing became a constant issue on his life. He lived with a frequent pain on his knee. And his next title would come only on the year after. He played on the victory over Internacional (1 x 0), the only goal scored by Bebeto, on a crowded Maracanã. On the dressing room after the game, the all-star heard his name shouted by the supporters and had to come back to be honored for conquering Flamengo's fourth national title, also his fourth using the team's colors.

In 1988, Zico still played 25 matches. In 1989, he played 32. Rendering homage to the italian people, he played his farewell game from the Brazilian team in Udine, on March 27 of 89. Brazil lost by the score of 2 to 1, defeated by team of foreign all-stars. On February 6 of the following year, on a fully crowded Maracanã, the greatest fear of his fans took place: it was his farewell from the colors of the team. It was an exciting occasion for which Zico prepared himself the best way he could. But that was not a goodbye, only a so long, once the all-star would come back to the fields once more, this time on the other side of the world. 




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Mission on The Land of The Rising Sun

It did not take long to Zico came back to the fields. In May of 1991, he accepted the invitation for a unique mission: develop soccer in Japan. To play for the Sumitomo Metals, whose name was changed later to Kashima Antlers, and help to build a structure for the embryonary J-League. Zico came back to his roots, the non-grassy fields and amateur soccer. He did not had to go much further for the japanese to note how talented he was. And like it happened in Brazil, he took over another nation. Received the nickname of Jico San and scored many incredible goals with the shirt number 10 of the red and blue team, two of these goals, both in 1993, among the most beautiful of his career. One on the victory over Fujita for 2 to 1 and the other on the massacre over Thoku Eletric for 6 to 1. Zico hit the ball with his heel and kicked it on the air to the goal. 

Japanese soccer and Kashima rapidly grew. Zico conquered titles and was honored for all he did in favor of that country on his farewell party. Counting with the presence of his family and friends, the japanese people promoted the Carnival 94' on October of that same year. There was a series of tributes to the myth that was leaving the fields for the last time, at least as a soccer player. 

The radio speaker Celso Garcia, a man that followed the all-star's entire career, speaks about Zico's consolidation as an idol. 
 

"Zico never was concerned about becoming an idol and having a 'machine' working for him. On the opposite, he had to struggle a lot, score many goals both in Rio and São Paulo, to silence the ones that insisted on the theory that he was could play a good game only at Maracanã. He had to prove it every day and faced bad times due to these pressures. Never, in any time, he liked to be compared to Pelé, for example, and always recognized his place on the soccer world. He reached the top, first due to his capacity, showing that he was a real all-star; in second place, because he never was a trouble maker. He never claimed to receive a special treatment, like some today players. His claims were on the benefit of the athletes, he never wanted to be an exception. Zico was always disciplined and it gave him the necessary conditions for becoming an innate idol. He never wanted anything only for him, never was selfish. And also respected every opponent. Zico never celebrated mocking the opponent team's fans, his celebrations were always only aimed to his fans. Everybody admire him, because of behavior both inside and outside the game field. And it is impressive his patience with the people that ask him for photos and autographs, even this whole thing takes two, three or five hours. I think that it helps to explain how he is still and idol."
 

Zico still played for the masters teams of Flamengo and Brazil, also helping on the development of the beach soccer throughout the country. Nowadays, the all-star only has the ball under his feet during fun games or when he wants to show the Japanese team how to play nicely, once he is their coach. For this mission, he counts with a help from the brother Edu Coimbra, who acts as his assistant. The idol figures, however, is assured. Frozen on a move that the statue was able to enthrall, on a fantastic kick reproduced on paintings, video, pictures and, mainly, on the memory of who saw the all-star playing. 



TOP  |  FROM QUINTINO’S JUVENTUDE TO FLAMENGO  |  ZICO CONQUERS THE WORLD  |  MISSION ON THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN

Copyright © 2004, Zico Participações.
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