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The history of football is a sad voyage from beauty to duty.
Friday, April 21, 2006

The Man Who Saved The Beautiful Game


Tele Santana, has died at the age of 74. He had spent the last month in hospital in the city of Belo Horizonte. This sad news marks the fading of the light for the man who saved the beautiful game.

Here is a tribute by Tim Vickery:

Football is the poorer for the passing last week of Tele Santana.

But the death of Brazil's 1982 World Cup coach has given the game an opportunity to reflect on one of its most important but least fashionable themes: it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it.

Socrates was one member of the magnificent midfield Brazil had in that World Cup. They won hearts all over the planet. But they didn't win the trophy.

After Santana's death Socrates wrote a tribute article in which he depicted the scene in Brazil's dressing room in the wake of their elimination by Italy.

Players were in shock, some were in tears. Amid the desolation, though, Tele Santana was a picture of serenity.

"We gave it our best shot," he said. Proud of the team he had built, proud of the way they had played, he knew that only one country could win the World Cup.

If it was not to be his side, then at least they should go out with a smile as well as a tear, faithful to their principles, true representatives of their country's wonderful tradition.

It would be cruel and inaccurate to portray Santana as some kind of footballing Don Quixote, a faintly ridiculous dreamer obsessed with romantic quests.

He wanted to win, and he achieved his objectives on a truckload of occasions. After all, his early '90s Sao Paulo side beat both Milan and Barcelona in the annual Inter-Continental Cup.

But he always understood that there was much more to football than the result, that if the final score is the only point of interest then we might as well all give up and get into numerology, that football is not all about winning.

It is also how you go about seeking the victory. It is about self-expression and art and nobility.

The 1982 team went about their business with such style and swagger that they are still talked about with affection wherever football is played.

Indeed, they are remembered much more clearly than many sides who did go on to win the World Cup.

It is hard, though, not to dwell on the "if onlys". Had Brazil won the trophy in 1982 the team would be more than a fond memory.

They might be the blueprint for future sides, because winners are always copied.

Nowadays, though, not even Brazil produce all-round midfielders with the delightful touch and passing skills of Falcao and Toninho Cerezo.

If centre-forward Careca had not been injured on the eve of the 1982 tournament. If the gangling blunderbuss Serginho had not been chosen to replace him.

If Italy had not played the game of their lives on that afternoon in Barcelona - then perhaps the technical and artistic level of football played today would be better than it is.

But what's done is done. There is no turning back.

Hence the importance of making your choices, sticking to your principles and living with the consequences - as Tele Santana knew so well, even in the hour of his most painful defeat.

posted by Trilby at 4:13 am
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This blog is written by a thirtysomething man who awoke one day to a startling epiphany. If you spend thirty years of your life playing, watching, listening, reading and debating football, the chances are, football is all that you will know.


This is a blog about a thirtysomething man who awoke one day to a startling epiphany. If you spend thirty years of your life playing, watching, listening, reading and debating football, then chances are, football is all that you will know.


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This blog is written by a thirtysomething man who awoke one day to a startling epiphany. If you spend thirty years of your life playing, watching, listening, reading and debating football, the chances are, football is all that you will know.


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