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'There are a lack of stars in Brazilian football," says legendary winger Jairzinho

The dashing winger known as the “Hurricane” remains the only man to score in every round of the World Cup.

Jairzinho has criticised the current Brazilian side.
Jairzinho has criticised the current Brazilian side.

44 YEARS AGO, Jairzinho carved out a piece of World Cup history as one of the stars of Brazil’s celebrated 1970 side.

The dashing winger known as the “Hurricane” remains the only man to score in every round of the tournament, notching seven goals in six games as Brazil swept to victory in Mexico.

But as his homeland prepares to host the World Cup for the first time since 1950, the 69-year-old veteran is dismayed by what he sees as a lack of star quality in Brazil’s class of 2014.

“I can only say today there are a lack of stars in Brazilian football,” Jairzinho told AFP in an exclusive interview.

“In 1970, we had practically 11 stars out there on the field. We were the only team in the world who had five number tens out there playing together. But football has changed – it was much more attack-minded then.”

If Jairzinho has his way, however, that might change in the years to come.

Three years ago, the Brazilian legend launched his “Hurricane” talent factory in a northern Rio favela known as “Gaza strip.”

Twice a week, Jairzinho coaches youngsters who dream of escaping poverty to forge a career in “The Beautiful Game.”

- Putting something back -

“I have been trying to put something back into football for the past 20 years — especially by helping the disadvantaged,” Jairzinho said.

“We are here in a favela with a population maltreated by powerful governments who are only interested in poverty when it comes to getting votes,” he charges.

In all, 285 children come to the center, says Jairzinho assistant Jorge Eiras, who admits drug issues in the area are hard to avoid.

“There is a big problem with crack here — with some guys round here it’s still a bit complicated.”

But the youngsters are full of enthusiasm and manage a few tricks, which impress the likes of visiting agent and 1970 Sweden international Jan Olsson, who has his eyes on Fernando da Cunha Custodios, clearly a talent in the making.

“I came to Brazil a year ago to play football and get an education,” says the 16-year-old Angolan, who has designs on turning professional.

“I have seen videos of Jairzinho. To be trained by a world champion who was on the best Brazilian side of all time is an immense honor. he is a great teacher — he teaches us things with great delicacy and patience”.

Jairzinho says some of his charges may well make it professionally.

“But the main goal is to educate the man and show him how to serve society through respect.”

- Golden memories -

The joy of working with youngsters, meanwhile, reminds Jairzinho of his own celebrated youth, when a Pele-inspired Brazil became the most celebrated and beloved side in history over the course of a magical World Cup campaign.

“The memories come flooding back every time I see these kids looking for their place in the sun,” says Jairzinho.

“Many people considered me the best player at that World Cup. I’m in the history books as the only player to score in every game at a World Cup — seven goals in six matches.”

Could his record be equalled this year?

“It depends on (Lionel) Messi, Neymar, (Cristiano) Ronaldo and the other scorers,” he says.

Jairzinho remains a close friend of Pele’s, often talking to each other to swap views on Santos and the national side.

“I played two World Cups with Pele (1966 and 1970) and we had a good relationship which we retain to this day. Our friendship has remained,” he said.

And despite bemoaning the lack of stars in the current Brazil side, he still believes they will triumph in this year’s tournament, citing home support as the crucial factor.

“The strength of support is very important for the morale of the group,” he contends, while saying he also thinks Argentina, Germany and Spain have good trophy chances.

- © AFP, 2014

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