Socrates died yesterday aged 57. I own a t-shirt with his face on bought for me by my friend Paul Prosser. Paul called me one morning very early and asked if we could meet. So we did at about 830am and he handed me a bag as a present containing the t-shirt. Originally he bought it for himself but thought it would suit me better. I’ve worn it around the world since and I’m wearing it now. You can see me wearing it on my fb avatar.
I don’t really remember Socrates as a player but I do remember those older than me and around me talking about him. Videos on youtube back up what they said, He was rangey yet elegant, powerful but with incisive vision. For nothing was he Brazilian captain.
But Socrates fulfilled his great name and more. He only became a professional player aged 25 after finishing his medical studies. He was a true doctor. Despite this, he was also known for smoking cigars at half-time and drinking far too much. His metabolism allowed it and his style dressed in Brazilian yellow and green, his long locks held back by a headband attested to his destiny.
As a leader, he showed true psychological insight. His half-time speeches weren’t the usual mix of bullying and tea cups. He appealed to his fellow players abilities, to their loyalty to Brazil, to their sense of destiny to lead a nation at the time mired in military dictatorship.
And this was his greatest role as a man. In 1982, as captain of Championship-winning Corinthians, the players called for democracy by having it printed on the back of their shirts. Socrates was a prominent social speaker in civil society and within two years the dictatorship fell.
A few years ago I was wearing the t-shirt in Manchester having a Sunday afternoon with Si, Jen and Alex. Si returned from the bar with a story. ‘Dan, you’re gonna love this. There is a couple at the bar arguing over your t-shirt. She says it’s the philosopher. He is saying its the footballer.’ True is Socrates was both.
Yesterday the great man departed himself, Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira aka Socrates RIP