KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Rare nowadays to fall across a footballer biography which bring something new to the sum total of observers’ knowledge or insight. Some are so flacidly overwritten that the subject disappears beneath a mountain of unedited tape-recordings.
Delightfully different, perhaps because the fascinating subject pre-dates computer technology, is the tale of Doctor Socrates, as told by Andrew Downie*.
Socrates was one of Brazil’s footballing icons of the 1980s and an intriguing confusion of personalities. To the football world in general he was the tall, thin centre-forward controller who bore an aura of superiority over his team-mates.
The captain’s armband was made for him. But he was not only the director of the brilliant Brazilian orchestra of the first half of the 1980s but a net contributor in terms of goals and assists.
The tragedy of Socrates, if it can be described thus, is that his varied talents and intellectual application were not married with the commitment which would have lifted his name and reputation out beyond that brief window of fame.
A footballer, a doctor, a political thinker – appropriately considering his name.
Socrates was all of these.He also enjoyed, to the full and more, the prizes his fame brought him. But as Downie tells it, Socrates’s commitment deficit was a feature of both his personal and professional life. His early death, at 57, was a sad loss to many spheres but too many of them unfulfilled.
Hist posthumous fortune is having a biographer whose knowledge and understanding born of many years living in Brazil enables him to bring the reader ‘the full Socrates’ in the colourful context both on and off the pitch of not only Brazil but Sao Paulo where Socrates indulged the most meaningful of his years in club football.
A valuable addition to the football bookshelf.
** Doctor Socrates: Footballer,. Philosopher, Legend by Andrew Downie (Simon & Schuster, rrp £20)