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'Football was a diversion. I was a doctor'

A look at how Tostão and other members of the Brazil 1970 World Cup-winning team dealt with their success.

Tostão pictured playing for Brazil.
Tostão pictured playing for Brazil.
Image: Imago/PA Images

THE FOLLOWING PASSAGE is an extract from Brazil 1970: How the Greatest Team of All Time Won the World Cup by Sam Kunti.

Brazil was ecstatic. The victory in Mexico had to be feted. For months, weeks and days the Seleção had been at the heart of every conversation, every argument on every doorstep and every street corner. 

The wonderful final had proven that Brazil was the football nation. The country danced, roared and peacocked. Everyone felt profoundly Brazilian.

Even the most ardent left-wing activist – who’d solemnly vowed to never support Brazil – melted when Rivellino equalised in the curtain-raiser against Czechoslovakia. 

What they’d feared most − in the midst of the political repression and persecution – was euphoria, joy, hope and happiness spreading to every nook and corner of the country. They felt alienated from Brazil, yet the football team had made them happy. 

Jubilant, Brazilians lined the streets to see Carlos Alberto and his team in a ticker-tape parade. 

‘A million supporters in Rio de Janeiro!’ Manchete, a mainstream magazine not short of superlatives and hyperbole, shouted that it was a party that eclipsed the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and Neil Armstrong’s welcome home. 

From Mexico, the Brazilian delegation was first flown to Brasilia for a luncheon and photo-op with President Médici, who seized the moment to champion his regime and bask in the victory.

‘In the name of Brazil, thank you very much,’ said the general, embracing captain Carlos Alberto. 

‘You all showed, with a lot of vigour and force, how great our country is. Today is a day of national fraternisation.’

Arms wide open and tears streaming down his cheeks, Médici eulogised the team’s No. 10: ‘You are the great hero, you are the king. You delight our country, Pelé. What great luck that you were born here.’ In turn, Pelé cried.

At lunch — a buffet of turkey, duck, roast beef and shrimp — Carlos Alberto, João Havelange and Jerônimo Bastos joined the president’s table. Médici was delighted.

With the third world title and incredible economic growth, Brazil seemed unstoppable. The military’s slogan of ‘Ninguem mais segura esta pais’ (Nobody can stop this country now) was becoming reality.

Soon, the government would embark on major infrastructure projects, including the construction of the Trans-Amazonian Highway and the Itaipu Dam. Football had contributed its part and the military was planning to take firmer control of the game by launching a proper national championship and constructing bigger and better stadiums than ever before.

Havelange’s presidency at the CBD was assured. He, of course, wanted more. In fact, he wanted to run the entire game. His sales pitch to the Fifa electorate would be simple but compelling: a democrat, he represented the ‘third world’ and would fight for its interests.

In the years leading up to the 1974 Fifa presidential elections, Havelange campaigned heavily in Africa, wooing FA presidents with cocktail soirees and promises of banning South Africa’s FA because of apartheid. His ultimate selling point was the expansion of the World Cup to a 24-team tournament. The Brazilian was a nefarious football administrator. Pelé was to play a part in mobilising the vote.

The No. 10, however, had plans of his own. Pelé had won it all with the Seleção. He longed for more family time. The endless travelling was exhausting. All the speeches, receptions and official functions, even in the frenzy of victory, as joyous as they were, were overwhelming. He just wanted to sneak away and he was not the only one …

No. 9 – Tostão

Is Eduardo Gonçalves de Andrade different from Tostão? Can you separate the person from the alter ego? The football player from the doctor? The kid from the septuagenarian? Did Tostão’s success and stardom become too much of a burden for Eduardo to carry in later life?

Tostão had been one of those players who longed for some rest amid all the celebrations. Pelé’s left-footed attacking partner in the Seleção was priceless to the team. He often played with his back to goal, flicking passes to Pelé and Jairzinho. 

Everything sped up around him whenever he got possession, his little feet whirring, pinging around his short-range first-time passes. Tostão manipulated the space around him. His intelligence was a menace to opposing defenders. He calculated angles at warp speed and shifted players around him like chess pieces. He pivoted and pirouetted; often, he drifted out to the left.

Tostão wasn’t fixated on scoring during the 1970 World Cup. Instead, he sought to make himself available at all times, lurking and directing. He embodied one of the great virtues of Zagallo’s team − he knew how to play without the ball.

He had a singular kind of understanding with Pelé but knew that he could never match the No. 10: ‘When Cruzeiro beat Santos in 66 in the [Taça Brasil] the press was publishing that I was “o Novo Rei” (the New King). That was something I thought to be absurd.

The press was asking: “How do Pelé and you compare?” I said, “The best that I can do is to think like him, but I just won’t be able to execute it, haha!” I could have his logic and reasoning, but I would never have the technique and physical strength to execute it. It was about thinking. Quick thinking in fact is a good quality whatever you do. Being concise, being a minimalist, quickly making decisions without delay.’

imago-19700621 The Brazil 1970 team. Source: Imago/PA Images

Tostão was the team’s most sophisticated player. He was brilliant in his own small, decisive patch, drawing out defenders and imagining delicate assists. 

Yet, Tostão always carried the stigma that he was somewhat underdeveloped for an elite athlete. Even his nickname alluded to his small frame. Eduardo was the little coin, not worth much. Instead, he went on to become the brightest player to have ever featured alongside Pelé, anticipating his every move. Armando Nogueira wrote of ‘telepathy’ between the pair. Tostão called it ‘analogue communication’.

For all of Tostão’s understanding with Pelé, Eduardo and Edson couldn’t have been more different. Edson and Pelé became mythical; the alter ego usurped the person. Tostão’s eye injury — which left his fitness for the 1970 World Cup in doubt for the longest of times — ultimately curtailed his career. In 1973 he retired at the age of 26. Tostão was never at home in the hysteria of football milieus.

Intellectual and liberal, he pursued medicine at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, but that didn’t bring solace. All his fellow students and professors wanted to talk about was football.

His exile from the game would last until 1994 when Tostão returned to the Brazilian mainstream as a TV pundit and columnist. Today, his biweekly columns in Folha de São Paulo, a national newspaper, are among the most read and insightful in Brazil.

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Eduardo, sitting in his tasteful living room, dressed in a T-shirt from under which a small belly shows, explained: ‘It was as if I lived two lives, one of a former athlete — recognised as I am to this day and always trying to be considerate of people; and the other, my personal life, totally separate from my public persona. Football was a diversion. I was a doctor, I worked a lot as a doctor, as a teacher. I stayed away from football. I’ve always had this concern [to separate Eduardo from Tostão]. I never really liked mixing these things, but it was inevitable. There was no way to separate them.’

In his view, Pelé never suffered from the anguish, the conflict between the man and the myth. There was no loss of identity, the way Tostão and others experienced it. Is Jair separate from Jairzinho? Does Hércules exist without Brito? They’ve remained captives of their own success.

Ultimately, Eduardo couldn’t banish football from his life. Instead, he’s learned to reconcile himself with his alter ego:

‘Many have problems, emotional difficulties forming a new life separate from the one they had as athletes. They have a hard time carrying that around. Our Seleção went down in history. Everyone remembered it. Parents and grandparents tell their children and grandchildren. The past is important, it is a living thing used to relate to the modern world. This relationship between the past and the present is important to understand what happens in football today. Yes, the memory is important, but not as something that needs to be relived.’

No. 7 – Jairzinho

It’s a February night in 2022 in Leme, a corner of Copacabana beach in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain, and Jairzinho is defying the postponement of Carnaval, sambaing the night away at his favourite hangout, Taberna Atlantica. A small band is covering songs by the great composer Cartola, and when it’s Jairzinho’s turn to take the mic he sings ‘Samba Enredo’, a 1980s classic. His musical talent is highly questionable but he enraptures the other revellers and demands that Carnaval’s inimitable place in the city’s calendar is reinstated.

Aged 77, Jairzinho no longer possesses the muscularity and explosiveness of a middleweight boxer he enjoyed during his playing days. Today, he has a beer belly, puffy cheeks and greying hair. He usually wears a tank top adorned with the word ‘Fogo’, a reference to Botafogo.

With Covid-19 still claiming hundreds of lives a day, sky-high unemployment, poverty and floods in Petropolis, Jairzinho says, ‘Brazil has no salvation. In Brazil, nothing ever changes. They want samba and futebol. The population is innocent and enjoys it. But everyone who goes into politics, be it at municipal, state or federal level, it’s all about thievery.’

Jairzinho is often loud and argumentative. Everyone at the Taberna knows him and he knows everyone. Yet he carries a resentment from the perception that he never received the recognition that’s his due. At the Taberna, he tends to sit at the head of the table. As the evening progresses, he asks his friends, who call him ‘Jaja’, ‘Who here is a champion?’ I reply, ‘Are you still a champion?’ He shouts, ‘Who was the best player in 70?’ I quip: ‘Tostão.’

His friends, Jorge, who thinks Alain Giresse is Polish, and Marcio, a lawyer, don’t protest.

Jairzinho’s attitude is old-school Brazilian: quem for rei, nunca perde a majestade – once a world champion, always a world champion. For Jairzinho, however, as time passes, winning the 1970 World Cup seems more a burden than a blessing.

Brazil 1970: How the Greatest Team of All Time Won the World Cup by Sam Kunti is published by Pitch Publishing. More info here.

For the latest news coverage on the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022, see here >

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