July 12th 1966, Brazil 2-0 Bulgaria
“BRAZILIANS DELIRIOUS OVER YOU STOP KISSES IN THE HEART STOP CRIOULA” – Telegram sent by Garrincha’s wife Elza after the Brazil’s win over Bulgaria at Goodison.
Elza was – of course – toying with the truth a little. Brazil were not convincing against Bulgaria, they were eleven men that had never played together before. They won thanks to a Pele free kick in the first half and a Garrincha free kick in the second that corkscrewed toward goal-net.
These two legends, when together, were bullet-proof. They never lost a game for Brazil while playing together. Garrincha’s first and only loss came against Hungary in their next World Cup game and it was to be his last game for Brazil.
Goodison saw Garrincha well past his prime, his bent legs – the cause of his unique balance, were also the reason for his bad knees. Brazil only picked him for their squad out of a combination of pity and blind hope. Study video of the Bulgaria game though and you still see more than a glimmer of this prototype for all wide boys; he was the original card shark – shuffling his deck in front of scared and confused defenders. Despite his knees, despite his liver, he was still tabasco and black coffee, still torturing defenders with his cute but devastating skill.
Garrincha’s journey was pretty tragic, it stalled at the junction of catastrophe and brilliance. This was the man who kept his earnings squirreled away in the back of the sofa, stuffed under urine soaked mattresses, and in fruit bowls – forgotten about until they were worthless rotten paper…Garrincha clearly loved the ball, but he was indifferent about the game swirling around it. As for Pele, he never played at Wembley, even in a friendly, but he played at our Goodison.
Biographer Ruy Castro says that “For Garrincha, sex was a sport that gave him as much pleasure as football.” He must have been licking his lips and tapping his feet at the prospect of combining his two loves on landing in England, the epicenter of the Swinging 60’s. Tragically for Garrincha, Brazil’s home base was Lymm – 188miles away from London’s lascivious swinging bell bottoms.
The man with bent legs was a reluctant star, but the best… His unfinished career was beautiful, like the half completed Gaudi church. Predicting which way he was about to turn was like predicting a Jackson Pollock paint dribble, and Goodison had the privilege of meeting him. Let’s never forget.