If you are a football fan you know who the title refers to. The others might be wondering what Socrates had to do with football. Well, I am clearly not talking about Socrates, the Greek philosopher. In fact, the Socrates here is the Doctor Socrates of Brazil. The gifted attacking midfielder had a vision and intelligence like no other on a football pitch. Considered as one of the greatest midfielders the beautiful game has ever seen, Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira was an idol for a whole generation of football fans. His iconic long hair and headband made him the coolest player ever to kick a ball.
During a career spanning seven years, Socrates scored 22 goals for Brazil and played in two World Cups, while captaining in one.
A legend, his tales of triumph go on and on. But what made him so unique and special? Why did people call him Doctor Socrates? What is the aura around him that goes beyond a football field? The simple answer is that he was a genius on and off the field. He holds a doctorate in medicine and was a highly regarded political figure in Brazil. Socrates received his doctorate from Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirao Preto while he was actively playing professional football.
Born in Belem, Para, Socrates grew up in Ribeirao Preto, Sao Paulo. His father was a revenue supervisor and this job made their family financially sound. Socrates’ father had built him a small library where he spent most of his time when he was a boy. It was this library that opened the doors of reading to Socrates. However, during the military dictatorship, censorship issues forced his father to destroy the library. This incident had a great influence on little Socrates. His later movements for democratizing Brazil were probably influenced by this episode in life. At a very young age, he was able to feel first-hand the misuse of power. Although it was much later, when he was in college, he understood clearly the repercussions of military rule.
His club career mostly revolved around Corinthians and it was at this time, he founded the Corinthians Democratic Movement. Opposing the then ruling military government, the movement had a major impact on Brazilian politics. He even threatened to leave the country and play for Italy if a direct presidential election was not conducted. After his illustrious football career, he practiced medicine at Ribeirao Preto. He was also a columnist for various newspapers and magazines, writing mainly on football and politics.
Socrates died on 4th December 2011, aged 57, fulfilling a professed desire he had. He wished “to die on a Sunday when Corinthians won a trophy”. That Sunday, on 4th December, Corinthians lifted the Brazilian title for the first time in six years. The then-President Dilma Rousseff paid tribute to the legend by stating that the nation had lost “one of its most cherished sons“. “On the field, with his talent and sophisticated touches, he was a genius. Off the field he was active politically, concerned with his people and his country.”
His life and legacy continue to influence people around the globe. The young generation of today can learn a lot from great persons like him. The world still needs heroes. The world still needs men like him. Let us all learn from them.