Garrincha: The Brazilian GOAT with An Extraordinary Legacy

garrinchaIn the annals of football history, few people shine as brightly as Garrincha. The mere mention of this Brazilian legend evokes images of dribbling wizardry, corner kicks that defied physics, and a joyful spirit on the pitch. But behind the footballing genius lay a life marked by hardships, controversies, and personal struggles. In this article, we delve into the extraordinary life of Garrincha, the Brazilian GOAT (Greatest of All Time), whose legacy remains as complex as it is iconic.

Garrincha’s Early Life and Disabilities

Manuel Francisco dos Santos, lovingly known as Garrincha, was born into the harshest of circumstances in Pau Grande, Brazil. He emerged from a background of grinding poverty, the grandson of slaves. Garrincha’s upbringing was far from privileged; he barely received a formal education.

But it was on the football pitch that Garrincha found his true calling. Despite his physical disabilities, which included a deformed spine and one leg six centimeters shorter than the other, he possessed an extraordinary talent for the beautiful game. To fans, he was the “Alegria do Povo” or the “joy of the people,” an “Anjo de Pernas Tortas” or an “angel with bent legs.” His unmatched skills left spectators wondering if he hailed from another planet.

Here is a table of Garrincha’s biography stats.

Date of birth/Age Place of birth Citizenship Date of death Position Height Former International Caps/Goals
Oct 28, 1933 Brazil Pau Grande Brazil Brazil 20.01.1983 (49) Right Winger 1,69 m BrazilBrazil 50 / 12

Explore Garrincha’s childhood life here.

Footballing Genius

Garrincha’s repertoire of footballing skills was nothing short of astonishing. He could dribble past defenders as if they were mere obstacles, deliver corner kicks and free kicks with pinpoint accuracy, and even head the ball effectively despite his short stature. What set him apart was his unpredictability, a quality that left opponents bewildered and fans chanting “Ole” in admiration as he weaved his magic on the field.

He made his mark at the age of 20 when he joined Botafogo fc, scoring a sensational hat trick in his first-team debut. During his twelve-year stint with the club, Garrincha would go on to score an impressive 232 goals in 581 matches, etching his name in footballing history.

Garrincha’s World Cup Success

Although Garrincha missed the 1954 World Cup, his reputation as a dribbling maestro earned him a spot in the squad for the 1958 Sweden World Cup. It was there that he teamed up with a young and talented Pelé, and together they led Brazil to its first-ever World Cup victory. The dynamic duo of Pelé and Garrincha proved unstoppable, and Brazil never lost a match with both of them on the team.

In 1962, fate favored Garrincha when Pelé suffered an early injury in the Chilean World Cup. Garrincha took the spotlight, scoring two pivotal goals against England in the quarterfinals and replicating the achievement against Chile in the semis. The British press hailed him as “a combination of Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney, and a snake charmer.” Brazil once again won the World Cup, and Garrincha not only earned the title of the tournament’s best player but also clinched the Golden Boot as the top goalscorer.

Garrincha’s World Cup Statistics


World Cup Year Matches Goals Assists Yellow Red
1966 1966 2 1 0 0
1962 1962 6 4 0 1
1958 1958 4 0 0 0

Off the Pitch Troubles

Garrincha’s life off the pitch sharply contrasted with his footballing prowess. He lived a tumultuous life marked by alcoholism, scandals, and personal tragedies. Rumor has it he lost his virginity to a goat at 12, a haunting story.

His well-documented struggles with alcohol often led to reckless behavior and tragic outcomes. In a drunken stupor, he ran over his own father, also battling alcohol addiction. His turbulent life claimed casualties, including accidentally killing his mother-in-law in a 1969 car accident. Additionally, his second wife, renowned samba singer Elza Soares, left him after a violent altercation in 1977. Garrincha’s indiscretions extended to fathering an estimated 14 children, often impregnating local girls during team travels.

Legacy and Controversy

The question of whether the indiscretions of a genius should be forgiven remains a topic of debate. In Brazil, Garrincha’s dismal domestic record did not diminish his superstar status. In 1974, a stadium in Brasilia was named in his honor, reflecting his enduring legacy in Brazilian football.

However, the curtain fell tragically on Garrincha’s life when he succumbed to liver cirrhosis, a result of his unrelenting battle with alcoholism, on January 20, 1983. He passed away in relative obscurity and poverty, but thousands of fans came to view his body at the Maracanã stadium to pay their respects to the man who had brought them their first two World Cups.


Garrincha, the footballing enigma, made an indelible mark on football worldwide. His dazzling skills and uncontainable joy on the pitch transformed him into an icon. His legacy in Brazilian football still stands today. However, his turbulent personal life serves as a reminder that even the greatest talents can be haunted by demons. Garrincha’s story is one of contradictions, emphasizing that genuine greatness often weaves a complex tapestry of triumphs and tribulations, both on and off the field.

Explore a rich tapestry of football star stories by delving into our other articles about football stars below;

Pele’s real name | Football Legend Ronaldinho | Laurence Maguire| Jake rooney

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