There is a reason why this man is called Socrates. One of the truly deep thinkers of the sport and its culture of all times.
Watching Socrates, Eder, Falcao, Zico in the 1982 World Cup, a team coached by Tele Santana was like watching a piece of art taking shape right in front of your eyes.
Socrates talks about the deadening of futebol – function over form, winning over creativity.
“Football is an art and players should be allowed to show creativity. If the coach gives freedom to the players to play the way they know how, they can do it.”
“If [painters] Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas had known when they were doing their work the level of recognition that they were going to have, they would not have done them the same. You have to enjoy doing the art and not think ‘will I win?'”.
The 1982 and 1986 World Cup squads were exactly that. They never got the results that the CBF craved and the o jogo bonito died with them. That was when the pendulum shifted the other way. Dunga was part of that dour 1994 World Cup team with some interspersed vestiges of beauty which won them the World Cup. The foot soldier and his future coaching philosophy found roots in those Tele Santana losses. Sixteen years later, we see Brazil in the creative crossroads. Does it go on in its present state – preferring function, or in a volte face find form?
A Utopian solution would be to find a happy medium between the two. In the present squad we have the potential to do just that. There were moments when we saw glimpses of stardust – Kaka almost scoring off a piece of sparkling skill from Robinho and Luis Fabiano against Netherlands. However, the overall philosophy has been to cut down on the showboating moments. Deference is the Dunga way of doing things.
A player like Ronaldinho would have to devote himself to the team, fitness, and discipline. Dunga understood the need for blue collared workers on the field which is his legacy. The toilers are indispensable. There is no going back to the days of Zico and Socrates but there should also be no days going forward to Felipe Melo and Gilberto. Somewhere in between, my friends. Somewhere in between. That is the key. Bring back Big Phil Scolari. It rhymes too.
Socrates is in London right now, part of the Lit Fest speaking as a cultural commentator on Futebol and Brasil. Would have loved to be part of that greatness but hopefully he can come to NY and impart his wisdom in the near future.