Former Brazil great Socrates, the clever playmaker who captained Brazil at the 1982 World Cup, died Sunday. He was 57.
Known for his elegant style on the field and his deep involvement with Brazilian politics, Socrates died of septic shock resulting from an intestinal infection, according to a statement by the Albert Einstein hospital.
He had been rushed to hospital on Saturday — the third time in four months — and had been in critical condition in an intensive care unit, breathing with the help of a ventilator.
Socrates was twice hospitalized and placed in intensive care in the last few months, most recently in September. Both times he was admitted for hemorrhage caused by high pressure in the vein that carries blood from the digestive system to the liver.
Socrates acknowledged being a heavy drinker, even when he starred as a player in the 1980s, but said he stopped drinking earlier this year after his stints in the hospital.
Socrates was above average both on and off the field. He became a doctor after retiring from soccer and later became a popular TV commentator and columnist, always with unique and controversial opinions. He never denied his fondness for drinking, from the time he was a player until his final days.
Socrates wrote a series of columns for The Associated Press during the 2011 Copa America in Argentina, expressing his views on all aspects of the tournament, including economic and political issues in Latin America.
“It’s not just about the game itself,” Socrates said before the competition began. “Before anything, (soccer) is a psychological battle, the human aspect plays a significant role.”
Since his time as a player, Socrates never kept his political ideas to himself and often wrote about the subject in his columns. Known as Dr. Socrates because of his practice of medicine, he was the main commentator on a weekly TV sports program and was constantly in demand from local media for interviews on varied subjects.
With Brazilian club Corinthians, Socrates spearheaded a movement called the Corinthians Democracy, in which players protested against the long periods of confinement required by the club before matches. It quickly became a broader protest that coincided with Brazil’s fight to overturn a military regime in the 1980s.
Socrates, whose full name is Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, starred for Corinthians in the early 1980s, but he also played for Flamengo, Santos and Fiorentina in Italy.
The tall full-bearded playmaker captained Brazil in the 1982 World Cup in Spain and was a member of the squad in 1986 in Mexico. The 1982 Brazilian team became widely known as the best not to win a World Cup. With players like Zico and Falcao, it fell to Italy 3-2 in the second round despite needing a draw to advance to the semifinals.
Socrates was included in FIFA’s list of the best 125 living soccer players in the world, a list compiled by countryman Pele. Socrates played 63 matches with the national team, scoring 25 goals.
He was known for his great vision on the field. Always clever with the ball on his feet, his trademark move was his back-heel pass, and he set up and scored many goals with it throughout his career.
Socrates briefly coached and played for Garforth Town in England in 2004.
Socrates’ younger brother Rai was another great Brazilian midfielder, and he helped Brazil win the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
Socrates is survived by his wife and six children.
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Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.