Twisted Legs

Joy of Brazilians,
With Lore to Match

The great Brazilian player Garrincha is credited to single-handed win the country’s second World Cup championship, in 1962, Chile. The already celebrated Pelé was then hurt and barely played. For that, Mané, as he was also known, is considered one of the geniuses of the sport, perhaps in the same league as his more famous teammate, and others who graced the game, from Maradona to Johann Cruyff.
But his place in Brazil’s pantheon of public figures is even more remarkable than his feats within the football pitch. His iconic figure and deformed legs granted him a famous nickname, the “Bent-Legged Angel,” given to him by one of Brazil’s most celebrated novelists, Nelson Rodrigues.
The comic reactions he’d provoked on the audience was once compared to that of another iconic artist, Charles Chaplin. His unpredictable dribbles earned him the sobriquet “Joy of the People,” and laughter often irrupted on the bleaches after one of his plays. Many a defender was publicly humiliated by his ability with the ball. For him, they were all named Zé, with no particular distinguishing features other than being the one to be fooled at the moment.
He also became known for a number of stories, apocryphal of not, that followed his fame in public life and unfortunate fade out into oblivion. Like the one below.
In one of Brazil’s games abroad, he was chosen the match’s best player and given a then highly coveted transistor radio. It’s reported that he toyed with it for a little bit and was utterly puzzled by one of its features.
Later in the locker room, a teammate asked him whatever had happened to the radio.
– I threw it away, said Garrincha.
– How come?
– It didn’t work.
– What do you mean? It was playing music when you got it, remember?
– Yeah, but it spoke a strange language I couldn’t understand. So I got rid of it.
And that was it. As it’s often the case with such an autistic-like mentality like his, there was some logic in what he said. His mate though couldn’t help it and exploded laughing. Who wouldn’t?
* Originally published in June 20, 2010.

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