Tuesday, January 20, 2015

20 January 1983 - This Bird Has Flown

On 20 January 1983, legendary Brazilian winger/forward Manuel Francisco dos Santos, better known as "Garrincha," died in a Rio hospital at the age of 49.

A two-time World Cup champion with Brazil, as well as the 1962 World Football Player of the Year, Garrincha (meaning "little bird") was an unlikely footballer, having been born with a deformed spine, a right leg that bent inwards, and a shorter left leg that curved outwards. By the time he was 18, however, he had developed the uncanny ball control and phenomenal dribbling ability that would establish him as one of the world's most dynamic players.

He spent the majority of his club career in Rio with Botafogo, making 581 league appearances from 1953 to 1965. He debuted for the first team on 19 July 1953 and promptly scored a hat-trick.

Garrincha earned his first cap for Brazil in 1955. He made 60 appearances total for the national side, with Brazil winning the first 59. That run included the 1958 and 1962 World Cups, Brazil's first two cup titles. After he scored two goals in Brazil's 3-1 win over England in the 1962 quarterfinals, the British press described him as "Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney, and a snake charmer all rolled into one."

Unfortunately, Garrincha's personal life was less successful, as he struggled with alcoholism, domestic problems, and financial mismanagement. He died from complications related to cirrhosis.

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