By: Gyang Dakwo
Mario Zagallo, who won four soccer World Cups for Brazil as either player or coach, including the 1970 side considered by many to be the best ever, has died, according to a post on his official Instagram account on Saturday. He was 92.
A tough and talented left winger, Zagallo played on the team that won Brazil’s first World Cup in 1958 and he kept his place in the side that retained the title four years later.
In 1970, he coached a Brazil squad that featured all-time greats like Pele, Jairzinho, Rivellino and Tostao – one that many consider to be the greatest national team ever to play the game. They won Brazil’s third World Cup in Mexico.
That made Zagallo the first person in the sport to win a World Cup as both a player and a manager.
Later, he was assistant coach to Carlos Alberto Parreira when Brazil won their fourth title in 1994 in the United States.
His Brazilian fans loved him for his personality and unapologetic nationalism. He liked to say he was born with victory at his side and was quick to challenge those who said his teams were too defensive.
One of his most famous outbursts came after Brazil won the Copa America in Bolivia in 1997. His team were unfancied but when the final whistle went, an emotional Zagallo, his face red thanks to the rarified air of La Paz, screamed into the television cameras: “You’re going to have to put up with me!”
The phrase is still frequently repeated by Brazilians in all walks of life celebrating vindication.
Zagallo was also known for being highly superstitious and believed the number 13 brought him luck. He liked to coin phrases that contained 13 letters, he got married on the 13th of the month, and once even joked he would retire from the game at 13:00 on July 13, 2013.
Nicknamed the Old Wolf, Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo was born on Aug. 9, 1931, in Maceio on Brazil’s impoverished northeastern coast. His family moved to Rio de Janeiro before his first birthday and it was there he fell in love with football.
He married in 1955 to Alcina de Castro and remained with her until her death in 2012. The couple had four children.