The Triumph and Tragedy of Brazil's Forgotten Footballing Hero
Ruy Castro's wonderful biography charts the extraordinary rise and fall of a flawed sporting legend, and a tragically human hero.
The World Cup Finals, Sweden 1958. Brazil vs the fearsome USSR.
In the opening three minutes - 'the greatest three minutes in the history of football' - one man wrote himself into the record books alongside the game's greatest players, men like Pelé, Di Stefano, Puskas and Maradona. Brazil went on to win the cup, and in Garrincha, a star was born.
Garrincha was the unlikeliest of footballers - with a right leg that turned inwards and a left that turned out, he looked as if he could barely walk, but with a ball at his feet he had the poise of an angel. He played for the love of the game, uninterested in money, and ignoring tactical advice. And he was as wild off the pitch as he was mesmerising on it - mischievous, audacious and dripping with sex appeal.
It was his affair and subsequent marriage to the singer Elza Soares that caught the imagination of a nation - their mouth-watering combination of soccer and samba made them the toast of 1960s Rio. But by the age of forty-nine, Garrincha was dead, destroyed by the excesses that made him so compelling.
‘Funny and moving, zealously researched and lovingly told’ Daily Telegraph
“Castro's biography is funny and moving, zealously researched and lovingly told. This excellent new translation by Andrew Downie means English readers can properly appreciate one of the most incredible lives in the history of sport”
Alex Bellos, Daily Telegraph
“Passionate, fascinating and surprisingly moving... a worthy tribute... According to Gazza, Gascoigne has limited interest in books. He should be persuaded to make an exception for Garrincha. He would learn more about himself than by reading his own autobiography”
“[A] powerfully atmospheric and beautifully rendered life of one of Brazil's greatest ever players... A sad and fantastic book”
Harry Pearson, When Saturday Comes
“[Castro's] research is exhaustive and exemplary”
“A compelling page-turner, warts and all”
Scotland on Sunday