Late Brazil star Garrincha believed contemporary great Pele got lucky as he had such a brilliant ensemble playing alongside him in his glory years, it emerged in an interview published on Thursday — decades after the former’s death.
Garrincha, nicknamed O Anjo de Pernas Tortas (the angel with bent legs) owing to a spine deformity and a left leg which was shorter than his right, gave the interview in 1981, 18 months before his death, to Argentine reporter Carlos Bikic.
Only an abridged version ever saw the light of day — in Japan — and it is only now it has been published in Brazil in a report by ESPN The Magazine.
Asked if Pele was the best ever, Garrincha, who struggled first for recognition owing to his deformity and then with alcoholism, said, with certain understatement: “He was a good player [but] he was lucky. He scored goals and was lucky as he also had good people alongside him to pass him the ball.”
Garrincha, who starred with Pele in Brazil’s first World Cup victory in 1958, suffered from alcoholism and died aged just 49, but is recognized as a past master of the dribble.
At the time of his interview he said he had worked on beating his drink problem drinking “a lot of coffee” and guarana juice.
“For a while I had a hell of a pain in the stomach. To get a bit better I lay face down on the cold concrete. The doctor told me I couldn’t drink again and now I only drink guarana,” he said.
Garrincha’s father also had a drink problem and the star said: “If I see someone drinking cachaca [a popular Brazilian liquor] I yell at him that’s drinking poison.”
He convinced himself that “I am not addicted” to drink — but died of cirrhosis of the liver on Jan. 19, 1983, after falling into an alcoholic coma.
Garrincha, believed to fathered at least 14 children, spent his later years coaching disadvantaged children and drew a stipend from the Brazilian Football Confederation.