Manuel Francisco dos Santos also known by the nickname Garrincha (?little bird?), was a Brazilian footballer who played at the right winger and forward.

Born in Pau Grande, a district of Mag?, in the state of Rio de Janeiro on October 28, 1933, he is regarded by many as the best dribbler in football history!

His father was an alcoholic, drinking cacha?a heavily, a problem which Garrincha would inherit. He had several birth defects: his spine was deformed, his right leg bent outwards and his left leg was six centimeters shorter and curved inwards, none of which impeded his ability to play football at the highest level. A boy with a carefree attitude, he was smaller than other kids of his age, with his sister Rosa noticing he was as small as a little bird she started calling him Garrincha. The name stuck and by the age of four years old he was known as Garrincha to his family and friends.

In his very first training session for Botafogo, 18-year-old Garrincha performed a nutmeg on Brazil international Nilton Santos. Everyone marveled at his extraordinary dribbling skills and Santos himself adviced the club chairman to sign the bentlegged angel.

Many times in life people let simple defects of nature to stop them from pursuing their dream, but Garrincha was special!

He did play like a majestic bird too; swinging in and out, out and in with the glory of a swan. His entertaining style of dribbling the ball is one of the reasons why people call it the beautiful game.

People flocked to various stadia to witness the magician with bent legs at work. He faked in and exited out with blistering speed before either crossing the ball in with pin-point precision or unleashing a fierce shot at goal.

Garrincha excelled for Botafogo in 1957 as he scored 20 goals in 26 games helping his team to finish second in the league. His breathtaking form throughout the season warranted his place in the Brazilian squad for the 1958 FIFA World Cup.

Together with the goal machine in the form of Pele, Garrincha helped Brazil win the World Cup in truly mesmerizing fashion ? due to his style of play. Many people in Brazil consider Garrincha the better player of the two solely based on the flair and trickery that Garrincha exercised even in the most important matches of his life.

He was deemed irresponsible by the media when he dribbled past 3 defenders and was open to take a shot on goal but instead, waited for a defender to catch up, beat him again and then scored. People around the world saw genius in the move but the coach didn?t.

That incident cost Garrincha the starting line in his two games of the World Cup.

But he was chosen for the third match of the tournament and performed superbly against the Russians who were considered to be the favorites at that time.

Garrincha and Pele helped Brazil to the final of the tournament where Garrincha provided both the assists for the 2 goals that surpassed Sweden?s one goal lead.

He set up both the goals with an identical run where he beat the right wingback with pace and put in a precise low cross for Vava to tap in.

In the 1962 FIFA World Cup, Pele got injured after the second match and he was sidelined for the tournament. Garrincha on the other hand was enjoying the form of his life. He took the bull by its horns and single-handedly won the World Cup for the samba nation.

He scored goals from all around the pitch ? Headers, left footed drives from the edge of the box, curlers to the far post and solo runs. The media showered praises upon the swan as well.

The British football press said he ?was Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and a snake charmer all rolled into

one.? While the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio playfully questioned ?Which planet is Garrincha from??

Many legends of the game think that only two players in the world have single-handedly won the World Cup for their countries ? Diego Maradona and Garrincha.

His fitness started to deteriorate after the 1962 World Cup and by the time the 1966 World Cup came round, he was not the player he once was. The Brazilian football association under orders by the government was forced to select a political side for the World Cup which included heroes of the last generation.

The 1966 World Cup saw the emergence of a heavier Garrincha who was clearly suffering from fitness issues. He managed to score a brilliant free kick with the outside of his foot in a 2-0 win against Bulgaria, but the tournament as a whole was a big disappointment for Brazil as they crashed out in the first round.

Every bird that takes off has to bear the ugly repercussions if it tries to fly too close to the sun. Garrincha was never a natural athlete and he was a heavy drinker. He had never taken the game seriously and that?s the reason why his decline was pretty rapid. While the game kept producing newer stars, everybody slowly forgot about the legend Garrincha as he lost himself in liquor and partying.

Garrincha was a playboy. He became a grandfather at the comparatively tender age of 40 and considered it was weird to be both a professional footballer and grandfather. He fathered over 10 children with countless affairs littered throughout his adult life.

He drank heavily throughout his adult life, and was involved in several serious road accidents, notably a crash into a lorry in April 1969 which killed his mother-in-law. He was married twice, first to Nair Marques in 1952 (they separated in 1965), a factory worker from Pau Grande with whom he had eight daughters, and second to Elza Soares, a samba singer whom he married in an unofficial ceremony in March 1966; as Soares had also married before, the Brazilian press were sour on the marriage. The couple separated in 1977, when Soares left him after he struck her during an argument. Garrincha had other significant affairs, including one with showgirl Angelita Martinez, and he is known to have fathered at least 14 children.

After a series of financial and marital problems, Garrincha died of cirrhosis of the liver on January 20, 1983, in an alcoholic coma in Rio de Janeiro. He had been hospitalized eight times in the previous year, and by the time of his death he was a physical and mental wreck. His last years were unhappy and obscure ? he seemed to have become a forgotten hero ? but his funeral procession, from the Maracan? to Pau Grande, drew millions of fans, friends and former players to pay their respects.

The occasion was also littered with legends of the game ruing the passing of a true showman. It truly magnified the importance of Garrincha in the Samba nation.?

Garrincha played 50 international matches for Brazil between 1955 and 1966. Brazil only lost one match with him on the pitch, against Hungary at the 1966 World Cup. Pel? did not play the game against Hungary, and thus Brazil never lost when Garrincha and Pel? were on the same lineup.

Garrincha is probably the greatest dribbler to have ever played the beautiful game. He was a joy to the people and a multi-purpose stadium in Brasilia, Est?dio Man? Garrincha, is named after him.

Culled from www.thefootballchronicle.com

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