By Victor Kanayo
Former World Cup winner and Brazil football legend, Mario Zagallo, has passed on.
He died on Saturday, January 6, 2024.
This was disclosed by Brazilian Soccer Confederation President, Ednaldo Rodrigues.
He said, “We offer solidarity to his family members and fans in this moment of grief for the departure of this great hero of our soccer.”
Zagallo played in the World Cup final a record five times, winning four, as a player and then a coach with Brazil.
He is also the first man to become world champion both as a player and a manager.
Zagallo stopped playing professionally in 1965 and began his coaching career with Rio de Janeiro club, Botafogo the following year.
Brazil are the most successful nation in World Cup, with five titles, and Zagallo is one of the most instrumental figures in that history.
As a teenager on national service, he was one of nearly 200,000 in the Maracana Stadium who saw hosts Brazil stunned by Uruguay in the decisive final match of the 1950 World Cup.
He made his Brazil debut aged 26 shortly before the 1958 tournament but became a key part of the team that alleviated some of that pain from 1950, as a 17-year-old Pele inspired the Selecao to victory over Sweden in the final, with Zagallo scoring the fourth goal in a 5-2 win.
Zagallo had been the last surviving member of Brazil’s 1958 World Cup-winning team who played in the final.
With Pele injured in the early stages of the 1962 World Cup, Zagallo again played a crucial role, tracking back to help in defence during an era where it was unusual for forwards to do so, as Brazil beat Czechoslovakia in the final.
The tactically astute Zagallo, nicknamed ‘The Professor’ and ‘Old Wolf’, pulled together a side filled with the attacking talents of Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostao and Rivellino and made them irresistible.
Brazil won all six of their games and swept to a 4-1 victory over Italy in the final.
Zagallo then stayed on as Brazil coach for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, where they finished fourth.
He subsequently managed Brazilian clubs and national teams including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, helping the latter qualify for their maiden World Cup in 1990, before returning as coordinator in Parreira’s coaching set-up before the 1994 World Cup.
Zagallo, who played domestically for America, Flamengo and Botafogo, retired in 1965, having won 33 caps for his country.