The Fairgrounds of the 16 Worst Football “Bad Boys”...

Fate Was Not Kind to These 12 Soccer Icons...

17 Soccer Stars Who Were Rich Before Turning Pro...

Fate Was Not Kind To These 12 Soccer Icons


THE STORY IN SHORT VIDEOS

THE STORY IN SHORT ESSAYS

Icons 9 - 7: From the “Joy of the Nation” to the own-goal that turned into a death sentence

9. Garrincha: A deformed spine and a left leg that was 6 cm shorter

Das Grab von Garrincha. Foto: Imgao
Das Grab von Garrincha. Foto: Imgao

He had two crooked legs. In addition, one leg was 6 centimetres shorter than the other. As a consequence, he always looked as if he was about to fall over.

However, Manoel Francisco dos Santos, called Garrincha, never fell, unless his opponents had kicked him in the legs repeatedly. Manoel Francisco dos Santos received many names in his short life. The lightness of his game gave him the nickname Garrincha, or little bird. Because he was born with legs that looked like an O and a X, he was also called the “Angel with the Crooked Legs”.

And when he was famous, he became “Alegria de Povo”, the Joy of the Nation. In his chronicles, author Nelson Rodrigues called him the Charlie Chaplin of football. And indeed, watching the dancing winger play in the little footage that is available of Garrincha’s matches, does look like slapstick. It was usually the same trick, he feigned, once, twice, rocked his upper body, jumped back and forth, waited, and suddenly left the opponent behind. Sometimes he would pause for the defender to catch up with him, just so he could circle the ball around him once one more time and pass him again.

Garrincha was a Malandro, a rascal, a scoundrel – a figure that remains one of the most iconic in Brazilian football to this day. Players such as Edmundo and Romário were Malandros. Josimar was one too. The right-back who emerged out of nowhere during the 1986 World Cup, scored two incredible goals almost from the corner flag, then disappeared from the limelight and ended up in the drug world.

Dying poor from the consequences of alcohol

Garrincha bei der WM 1958. Foto: Getty Images
Garrincha bei der WM 1958. Foto: Getty Images

Robinho and to some extent Neymar are also players of this type. But the Godfather of all Malandros was Garrincha, a double world champion in 1958 and 1962 with Brazil, right-winger at Botafogo in Rio, a Malandro and Mulherengo, a womaniser from the small town of Pau Grande.

In Brazil, it is said that Pelé is treasured. But it is “Mané” Garrincha who is worshipped. When Garrincha played the game, there were no yellow cards, and other players constantly kicked and fouled him without being punished. It’s questionable whether he would be better today, maybe even a world star, in the condensed midfield of modern football and with the flashing lights of electronic media. When Garrincha rose to fame during the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the spectators in the stadiums were the first to realise that they were watching the debut of an exceptional footballer.

People had never seen something like this before, all the tricks, feints, this pure, almost naive joy of playing. He invented tricks, developed others further, intuitively did things that other players would have to rehearse for years. The championship in 1958, which eased the trauma of the lost 1950 World Cup in their own country, turned Garrincha into a national symbol almost overnight. He mobilised the population of a country that staggered from one political crisis to the next, a country that had freed itself from colonial rule through its own efforts. The Seleção united the people.

And Garrincha was worshipped, even though his difficulties with life away from the football pitch were obvious. He started drinking at an early age, probably to bear the pain in his crippled legs. He was involved in several car accidents, couldn’t manage his money. Not surprisingly, Garrincha is always portrayed as a brilliant footballer, but not a great thinker.

Garrincha's death and the end of Futebol Arte

Brazil did not lose a single match when Garrincha and pele played together in the national team.
Brazil did not lose a single match when Garrincha and pele played together in the national team. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

However, Garrincha was different than most people – a sensitive person with an alcohol addiction who felt at home in the countryside. When he left his wife and six children in 1966 to live with singer Elza Soares, a mulatto from poor beginnings, it didn’t fit the normal way of life in the Catholic country.

The people of Brazil on the other hand did not abandon their idol. And promptly plunged into a deep depression when Garrincha left the national team in 1966. In 1973, he ended his career with a farewell game in the Maracanã. Afterwards, he soon fell into oblivion. His small pension was not enough money to finance his life. When he died of alcohol poisoning on 20 January 1983 at the age of 49, without a penny in his pocket, Garrincha left behind at least 14 children and an audience that now started to remember him again. Thousands of followers lined the way to his grave.

It was no coincidence that Garrincha’s death coincided with the end of “futebol arte”, the classic artistic football of Brazil, which presented football in playful perfection. One year earlier, at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Brazil’s fantastic national team of Zico, Sócrates and Falcão had already fallen to the clever Italians in the round of 16. Incidentally, when Pele and Garrincha – Brazil’s two most exceptional footballers – played together, they never lost a single game. Garrincha only suffered one defeat during his international career anyway – in his last match for Brazil (a total of 50 appearances, 12 goals), when the Seleção was eliminated in the group stages of the 1966 World Cup in England against Hungary on 15 July (1-3).

His tombstone on “Cemiterio Raiz da Serra” cemetery in Rio de Janeiro bears the inscription: Descanse em paz, que era a alegria do povo – Mané Garrincha. (Here rests in peace the one who was the joy of the people – Mané Garrincha).

8. Stan Libuda: From the football stadium to the newsstand

Stan Libuda is accepted by both - SChalke 04 supporters and Borussia Dortmund fans. A very rare instance.
Stan Libuda is accepted by both - Schalke 04 supporters and Borussia Dortmund fans. A very rare instance. Photo: Imago

Nobody gets past God – that was the slogan on a poster in the German Ruhr district during the 1960s. An unknown fan wrote under it: Except Stan Libuda….

Reinhard “Stan” Libuda is still a legend in the Ruhr district today, kind of a German Garrincha. And that applies to both Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund. Incidentally, the nickname Stan is an homage to Sir Stanley Mathews, the legendary right winger from England. The former German national player wore the jersey of both clubs – Schalke 04 and BVB.

The right winger began his career in the youth of Gelsenkirchen, before he was promoted to the professional squad in 1961 and became the fan favourite at Schalke. In 1965, Libuda joined the arch-rival in Dortmund. In 1966, he scored a goal with the most famous banana shot in Germany’s history to lead BVB to the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

Two years later, he returned to his favourite club, Schalke 04, and led them to victory in the DFB Cup as captain in 1972. Libuda is the only player who switched between the rival clubs and who is still loved by both fan groups.

Apprenticeship as machine fitter abandoned

Reinhard Libuda led Schalke 04 to win the German Cup in 1972.
Reinhard Libuda led Schalke 04 to win the German Cup in 1972. Photo: Imago

The time after football was less happy for Libuda. For a long time, especially after separating from his wife, he lived a secluded life in Gelsenkirchen-Haverkamp.

Because he had abandoned his apprenticeship as a machine fitter at the beginning of his career, he was unable to find work for a long time. With the help of former team mate Rolf Rüssmann, he eventually got a job with the Thomas Group, a paper finishing company in Gelsenkirchen.

For a few years thereafter, he ran the tobacco shop on Kurt-Schumacher-Street in Schalke, which he had taken over from club hero Ernst Kuzorra and later handed over to former team mate Heinz van Haaren. Libuda underwent surgery in 1992 because of severe throat cancer. In 1996, he died of a stroke at the age of 63.

He was the first player from the 1970 “match of the century” (Germany lost to Italy in the World Cup semifinals in overtime) to die. The funeral took place at Ostfriedhof cemetary in Gelsenkirchen.

A legendary dribbler

Reinhard Libuda played for Schalke 04 and for Borussia Dortmund.
Reinhard Libuda played for Schalke 04 and for Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Imago

Libuda was a legendary dribbler. When preacher Werner Heukelbach used posters with the slogan “Nobody gets past Jesus” to promote a series of religious events in the Ruhr area in the 1960s, fans wrote the following under every poster: “except ‚Stan‘ Libuda”.

Over the years, this coined the slogan “Nobody gets past god – except Stan Libuda”, which was like an early version of the facts about Chuck Norris. The slogan is also the caption of a musical about FC Schalke 04. In 1970, after his defenders had failed to stop the nimble winger during the World Cup in Mexico, Bulgaria’s trainer said the following about Libuda: “You can only stop this man with a rifle.”

In 2003, a fan discovered a spelling mistake on the tombstone of Reinhard Libuda. Reinhard was written with “ai” instead of “ei”. The fan contacted the offices of FC Schalke 04 and manager Rudi Assauer promised to commission a new tombstone. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that the tombstone was changed on the initiative and after protests by another Libuda fan.

Stan Libuda’s goal in the final of the 1966 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup against Liverpool FC was voted second in the BVB Goal of the Century poll by Borussia Dortmund’s fans during the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the club. The access road west of the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen bears the name “Stan-Libuda-Weg”.

7. Andrés Escobar: The assassination by the Colombian gambling mafia

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES - JUNE 22: Andres Escobar of Colombia reacts after scoring an own goal during the World Cup group A match between USA and Colombia on June 22, 1994 in Los Angeles, United States.
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES - JUNE 22: Andres Escobar of Colombia reacts after scoring an own goal during the World Cup group A match between USA and Colombia on June 22, 1994 in Los Angeles, United States. (Photo by Michael Kunkel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

During the last days of his life, Andrés Escobar probably didn’t think of much else than that cursed 35th minute in Pasadena. That moment in the furnace of Rose Bowl stadium, where on 22 June 1994, more than 93,000 people create a deafening backdrop in the second game of the World Cup group stages between Colombia and hosts USA. Here, where the heat makes every step torture.

Actually, everything looks quite harmless. US midfielder John Harkes of English club Derby County crosses from the left to the centre, towards the penalty area.

On the height of the penalty spot, the ball lands at the feet of Colombian defender Andrés Escobar. US striker Ernie Stewart, who later scored the goal to 2-0, is nowhere near enough to reach the ball.

To the dismay of goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba, Escobar deflects the ball into his own net with his left foot. While the Rose Bowl literally explodes in jubilation, Escobar seems paralyzed. He buries his face under his shirt with the back number 2. A fatal own goal.

Shot dead, executed – with 12 bullets

22 JUN 1994: ANDRES ESCOBAR #2 OF COLOMBIA IN ACTION SHIELDS THE BALL FROM ERIC WYNALDA OF THE USA DURING THE 1994 WORLD CUP MATCH AT THE ROSE BOWL IN PASADENA, CALIFORNIA.
22 JUN 1994: ANDRES ESCOBAR #2 OF COLOMBIA IN ACTION SHIELDS THE BALL FROM ERIC WYNALDA OF THE USA DURING THE 1994 WORLD CUP MATCH AT THE ROSE BOWL IN PASADENA, CALIFORNIA. Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill/ALLSPORT

Ten days later, Andrés Escobar is dead. Gunned down. Executed – with twelve bullets. On 2 July 1994, Humberto Munoz Castro opens fire on the disgraced national player in front of the “El Indio” bar in Colombia’s capital Medellin while shouting the word “gooool”.

Andrés Escobar dies on the spot. He wore the yellow jersey of the Cafeteros in 50 international matches (1 goal).

The Colombian Football Association will not award this jersey until 1997, the end of the period of mourning for Escobar.

The fact that he is the victim of a crime after his momentous own goal – the Colombian team, which had become a secret favourite for the title, loses 1:2 and gets knocked out in the group stages – is one of the most tragic episodes in the history of the World Cup.

Escobar's death and the underworld…

MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - JUNE 22: Fans of Colombia display a banner from Andres Escobar, who was murdered after the World Cup 1994, during the FIFA World Cup group d match between Colombia and Tunesia on June 22, 1998 in Montpellier, France.
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - JUNE 22: Fans of Colombia display a banner from Andres Escobar, who was murdered after the World Cup 1994, during the FIFA World Cup group d match between Colombia and Tunesia on June 22, 1998 in Montpellier, France. Photo: Getty Images

Who is the man that ends Andrés Escobar’s life? Munoz Castro, who confesses shortly afterwards, is no stranger in the drug milieu of Medellin. As a bodyguard and driver, he worked for the powerful drug kingpins – in Medellin, which is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world at the beginning of the 1990s.

Escobar’s own goal cost the drug bosses a lot of money, the rumours say shortly afterwards. After all, the qualification of Francisco Maturana’s team was basically a foregone conclusion. “The defender had to pay for the gambling passion of some underworld bosses,” is a line from World Cup book “Der Fußball erobert die neue Welt (Football Conquers the New World, Weltbild, 2006)”.

Escobar’s death shocks the football world. In view of the fact that some major players in the underworld bet on Colombia and then murdered a player from their national team, the sport loses its innocence on this summer’s day in 1994.

120,000 people line the streets of Medellin at his funeral. It was here, at Atlético Nacional, that the professional career of Andrés Escobar, a son of a banker, began in 1985. After just one season with the Young Boys Bern in Switzerland (1989/90), Escobar returned to his hometown of Medellin, where he was once again signed by Atlético Nacional and played there until his assassination. The absolute highlight of his career was winning the Copa Libertadores with Atlético Nacional in 1989.

Free again after only eleven years

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 15: Pictures depicting the Ochoa brothers, former members of the Medellin drug ring.
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 15: Pictures depicting the Ochoa brothers, former members of the Medellin drug ring. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The Medellin courts sentence Munoz Castro to 43 years in prison, but in 2005, just eleven years after the murder, he is already released. “Good conduct”, they say.

The murdered Escobar becomes a legend in Colombia – even four years after his death, he is omnipresent in the fan displays during games of the Cafeteros. At the 1998 World Cup in France, a portrait of Escobar adorns the spectator stands in Lyon.

ESPN, the TV station that had also broadcast Escobar’s last international match on 22 June 1994, includes the murdered defensive player in a documentary about drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, who had been killed in a shooting the year before.

The claim: The godfather, an enthusiastic football fan, would never have tolerated the murder of a professional who shared the same name, even though he was not related to him…

Page of
<>