It may well have recently passed April 1st, but this isn’t the place for fooling around. Footballers with beards is serious business, and I’ve had a lot of time to think of the next FwB, when really, it’s been staring me straight in the eyes.
The banner above this post is no arbitrarily-googled ‘footballer with beard’ image, and so, sharing a name with a Greek philosopher is something none of the other FwB lay claim to. Fortunately, co-founding an ideological movement fusing together football and politics, Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira (or Sócrates for short), can hold right to such a name, and with it, a place at the pinnacle of FwB.
As a visionary Brazilian playmaker, Sócrates played 60 times for his country, and in doing so became one of Brazil’s most celebrated attacking players. Captaining Brazil in the 1982 World Cup, he scored two goals; the first, an absolute screamer against the USSR, the second capping a wonderful move against Italy. Despite failing to reach the semi-finals (losing to eventual winners Italy), that 1982 Brazil side is perhaps considered one of, if not the best Brazil sides ever. Not least thanks to Socrates’ mercurial ability to pass and move with such style and speed, alongisde Zico, Serginho and Falcão etc.
Thing is, it doesn’t stop there. Sócrates signature move – the blind heel pass – often stole his teammate the extra yard, and his years spent at Botafogo and Corinthians saw him score roughly a goal every other game. But what makes Big Soc the ultimate footballer, was his political-intellectual aspirations that saw him graduate with both a degree in philosophy and become a doctor of medicine, alongside co-founding the Corinthians Democracy movement, intended to challenge Brazil’s military dictatorship of the day. And surely a childhood love of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and John Lennon, can only stand you in good stead!
Quite clearly then, Sóco had something special; be it politics, be it football, be it medicine. But that’s not it yet. ‘Cause in 2004, 15 years after retiring, he agreed to join Garforth Town, then-managed by Brazilian Soccer School founder Simon Clifford, on a one-month player/coaching role, coming on against relatively-local rivals, Tadcaster Albion as a substitute late in the game.
So, no wonder Pelé named him as one of the Top 125 Living Footballers (alongside some other rather dubious individuals – El Hadji Diouf no less), yet surely of greater note, he makes the Top FwB list, as chosen by me.