RIO DE JANEIRO — Sócrates, the soccer legend and medical doctor who transcended the sport through his involvement in Brazil’s pro-democracy movement and his outspoken defense of his own bohemian excesses, died on Sunday in São Paulo, Brazil. He was 57.
The cause was septic shock from an intestinal infection, according to a statement from Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, where he was admitted on Saturday.
We were lucky to get this translated by Synamatiq’s own Portuguese reporter Deebag (pronounced Debadge) –Translation: We’re about to watch some of the greatest players of soccer and legends of Brazil. These guys will dribble your face off on a soccer field, score six goals in the first half thus losing the game by 12-0. However, that’s not the embarrassing part of the entire day. They’ll take a shower after the game, get dress; snatch your girl from you-being that you’re thirsty for their autograph. Then blaze her back in the locker room, hand her back to you-while drool about your entire team autograph your girl just got you. The team hops into their limo off to a night at Studio 54. Now watch these goals while you chew on a bunda sandwich.
Sócrates, the captain of Brazil’s team in the 1982 World Cup, had been hospitalized three times in the last four months. In recent interviews, he had described liver problems related to decades of heavy drinking, for which he was sometimes pilloried.
“This country drinks more cachaça than any other in the world, and it seems like I myself drink it all,” he once told an interviewer, referring to the popular Brazilian spirit made from fermented sugar cane. “They don’t want me to drink, smoke or think?”
“Well,” he said, “I drink, smoke (play with kitties and wet boxes) and think (of course with, two thinking caps, heh).”
His exuberant style reflected an expansive and multifaceted career. In addition to playing soccer, he practiced medicine and dabbled in coaching and painting. He also wrote newspaper columns, delving into subjects as varied as soccer, politics and economics, and made forays into writing fiction and acting on the stage.
Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira was born on Feb. 19, 1954, in the Amazonian city of Belém do Pará, Brazil. His upbringing was more privileged than that of many Brazilian professional soccer players, who often rise from abject poverty.
Emerging in the 1970s as a promising young player in Ribeirão Preto, in the interior of São Paulo State, he studied medicine while playing for provincial teams before attaining his medical degree at 24. After that, he moved up to Corinthians, the famous São Paulo club with a big following among Brazil’s poor.
Known to his fans as Doctor and Big Skinny, a reference to his spindly 6-foot-4-inch frame, Sócrates arrived at Corinthians at a time of intense political activity in São Paulo, a period when anger and resistance were coalescing against the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil.
Sócrates, in addition to organizing a movement advocating greater rights for Corinthians’s players, spoke at street protests in the 1980s calling for an end to authoritarian rule. That movement helped usher in a transition to democracy.
Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, praised Sócrates in a statement on Sunday.
“Dr. Sócrates was a star on the field and a great friend,” said Mr. da Silva, a Corinthians fan who is being treated for throat cancer at the hospital where Sócrates died. “He was an example of citizenship, intelligence and political consciousness.”
On the field, Sócrates was known as a wily strategist who could elegantly employ his signature move, a back-heel pass. At a time when many players maintained a clean-cut appearance, Sócrates had a beard and sometimes appeared with his long hair held back in a headband, like the tennis star Bjorn Borg.
Fans of Sócrates mentioned his name in the same breath as Brazilian soccer greats like Pelé, Ronaldo and Romário. But unlike those players, he was never part of a World Cup championship team.
The team he captained in 1982 was considered among the best to ever play the game, but it lost to Italy, 3-2, in the second round. In the 1986 World Cup, Sócrates missed a penalty kick in a quarterfinal loss to France.